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New Zealand recording copyright term to be extended to 70 years

By | Published on Friday 1 July 2022

The word 'copyright' highlighted in a dictionary

The record industry in New Zealand has welcomed the news that the copyright term for sound recordings in the country is to be extended from the current 50 years to 70 years. The extension is happening as part of New Zealand’s new free trade agreement with the European Union.

Unlike the copyright in songs – which is usually linked to the creator’s lifetime – the copyright in sound recordings is usually a set number of years after release.

In Europe – and other countries like Canada and Australia – that copyright protection now lasts for 70 years after release. But there are still plenty of places in the world where the copyright term for sound recordings is 50 years, as it was previously in Europe, Canada and Australia.

In Europe, the term was extended from 50 to 70 years back in 2013 on the back of a European Union directive agreed in 2011. That followed prolific lobbying from the record industry, and especially the UK record industry, which didn’t want its lucrative 1960s catalogue to fall out of copyright.

And now that the EU has a 70 year copyright term, it’s keen that countries with which it has free trade agreements do likewise.

Welcoming the term extension in New Zealand – or Aotearoa if you prefer – the boss of local record industry trade group Recorded Music NZ, Jo Oliver, says: “Copyright enables artists to make a living from their work and is fundamental to the sustainability and future growth of the music industry in Aotearoa”.

“Extending copyright term to 70 years from the date of release puts New Zealand artists and rightsholders on a level playing field with their overseas counterparts”, she adds. “This long overdue change will help preserve and protect iconic recordings from Aotearoa and support the New Zealand artists that created them”.

Of course, maths fans might note that, even with a 70 year copyright term, the 1960s catalogue will start to come out of copyright in the 2030s.

Given how long it can take to change copyright law, you can expect the UK record industry to start campaigning for a further extension in the years ahead, pushing – as they did during the last copyright extension campaign in the 2000s – for parity with the US where sound recordings get 95 years of protection.