UK LEGISLATION CHANGE FOR CO-WRITTEN WORKS
On 1 November 2013 a legislative change will alter the way the term of UK copyright protection for a co-written work is calculated. From this date the term of protection for the music and words within the co-written work will now expire 70 years after the death of the last surviving author of that work (composer or lyricist).
What is a co-written work?
A co-written work, sometimes referred to as a collective work and legally known as a work of co-authorship, is the term used in the new legislation to describe a collaborative work that contains both a musical component and a lyrical component, such as a song or an operatic aria.
How will the law change on 1 November 2013?
Under the current law, the music and words within a co-written work are treated as separate copyright works with their own individual term of protection. The current term of protection expires at the end of 70 calendar years from the end of the year of the author’s death; i.e. in the case of the music, 70 years after the death of the composer and, in the case of the words (the literary component), 70 years from the death of the lyricist. This means that it is possible for a co-written work to comprise a musical component that is out of copyright and a literary component that is still in copyright and vice versa.
For example, if the composer of a co-written work died in 1933, the UK copyright of the musical component of the co-written work expired on 31 December 2003. However if the lyricist died in 1955, the UK copyright component of the literary work runs until 31 December 2025.
From 1 November 2013 the term of protection for both the music and lyrics within a co-written work will now expire 70 years after the death of the last surviving author (composer or lyricist) of the co-written work as a whole.
Does the law apply to all co-written works?
No. The new law only applies to co-written works where the music and words were originally written to be used together.
If the music and words were not written to be used together (for example, words written for a pre-existing instrumental piece) the words and music will still have their own individual term of protection which will expire 70 years after the death of their respective author.
The new law applies to co-written works made:
- on or after 1 November 2013;
- before 1 November 2013, where the musical work and/or words are still in copyright in UK on 31 October 2013;
- before 1 November 2013, where music or the words are protected in at least one member state of the European Economic Area on 1 November 2013.
Therefore, the new law will mean that from 1 November 2013 the previously expired copyright in certain musical and literary works will be revived. However, in order to protect third parties who exploited these works or made arrangements to exploit such works when they were out of copyright, the new legislation states that these cases will not be considered an infringement of the revived copyright.
What does this mean for PRS and MCPS members?
The new legislation has been drafted in such a way as to ensure that where copyright in a work revives it will, if previously owned or controlled by a member, automatically form part of PRS and MCPS’ repertoire on 1 November 2013.
The change in law means we need to update the works that will be affected on our database. We have begun the process of identifying repertoire that may be affected by this law change. In the September newsletter we will confirm next steps and what information members should provide to help us with this process. For the time being members need take no action. We aim to update our data in time for next the relevant distributions.