Submitted by thewhippinpost on Sun, 13/05/2007 - 18:48.

"90 per cent. of musicians are not millionaires—they earn about £15,000 a year from their royalties."
Michael Connarty - Labour MP, Falkirk East.

40,000 musicians and 3,500 record labels (that number seems large to me) have apparently signed a petition to increase the length of time copyright exists on their art... and by extension, of course, the duration royalties are paid.

In the UK music performance copyright is protected for 50 years. In the USA it's 95 years... almost double the time. Michael Connarty (Labour MP, Falkirk East) fears artists will shun the UK and instead, seek to record and release their songs exclusively to the American market.

Personally, I hardly think it's that bad - most up-and-coming bands build their success in their home-market before laying-out lots of money to break foreign ones. And the catalogue of songs responsible for that success will often be the same ones used to spearhead a foreign launch... but as we all know, few "make it".

However, with people living longer these days, current copyright law could mean today's young artists suddenly finding themselves without, what could well be, an essential financial lifeline just as they hit retirement age (particularly as retirement ages are being pushed higher).

Lonnie Donegan, the "King of Skiffle", who enjoyed a string of top 30 hits, died in 2002 leaving an estate of £82,000. His surviving wife, Sharon, very kindly allowed Connarty to view the books and discovered that- in a good year - royalty income amounted to around £30,000 to £40,000. One of his number one hits, "Cumberland Gap", comes out of copyright this year.

It gets worse for Lonnie's band members who only receive a "paltry sum".

Composers, lyricists and even artwork designers and photographers enjoy copyright protection spanning 70 years plus a further 70 years beyond their deaths.

Connarty is not asking for that much time but is asking for the UK Government to pressure the EU to adopt a more level playing-field equal to the copyright terms enjoyed in America (95 years).

The Musician's Union found in its research that the average income of working musicians was around £15,000 a year... and that includes artists who have experienced a level of fame in their time!