After a ten year campaign by the music industry, the extension of copyright term brings Europe's artists and producers in line with the longer protection offered to authors and composers.
It means records by artists from the sixties and seventies will now not fall out of copyright and record companies will be able to continue to invest revenues in developing new talent.
The European legislation, which the initially sceptical UK Government had backed since 2008, has actually been ready to roll for the past two years after the Parliament pushed it through in 2009.
That had backed the move from 50 to 70 years protection; a fund for session musicians; a use it lose it clause, allowing copyright to return to the performers if not used by record companies; and a mechanism for unrecouped advances to be written off.
However, the Directive lacked the necessary support in the Council of Ministers - until today.
BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said, "This important decision comes not a moment too soon. An exceptional period of British musical genius was about to lose its protection. As a matter of principle, it is right that our musicians should benefit from their creativity during their lifetimes, and that they should not be disadvantaged compared to musicians in other countries.
"A longer copyright term is also good news for music fans, as it will ensure that UK record labels can continue to reinvest income from sales of early recordings in supporting new British talent and compete effectively in a global market."
MU General Secretary John Smith, who had campaigned for the session fund, added: "This represents a major step forwards that will be welcomed by all recording musicians. It provides some acknowledgement of the important contribution that performers make to the European creative industries, as well as recognising the current discrepancy that exists between the copyright regime and performers rights.
"We have campaigned for this not on behalf of a handful of extremely rich, well-known artists, but on behalf of a huge number of highly skilled session musicians who were being short changed under the current system."
PPL chairman and CEO Fran Nevrkla acknowledged the role played by UK and European politicians "who understood that this key change in the copyright legislation was long overdue."
He added: "This copyright change will mean that the PPL income streams will continue to flow through to the whole community of recording artists, orchestral players, session musicians, backing singers and other performers for an additional period of 20 years which is so important, especially when those individuals reach ripe old age and are no longer able to exercise their profession. The enhanced copyright framework will also enable the record companies, big and small, to continue investing in new recordings and new talent."
His colleague PPL director of government affairs Dominic McGonigal (see accompanying story) added: "This has been a ten-year campaign, with many setbacks, but we have the right result in the end. For thousands of performers and record companies, this means they can continue to earn royalties on their recordings, rather than others being able to exploit them at their expense."
IFPI chief executive Frances Moore said the move was "a victory for fairness. With this decision, the European Union is giving artists and producers in Europe the fair treatment they deserve. The extension of the term of protection to 70 years narrows the gap between Europe and its international partners and improves the conditions for investment in new talent."
U2's manager Paul McGuinness also hailed the move. "This is a great step forward for artists. The EU's decision recognises the role performers play in bringing a song to life and rightly narrows the gap between the protection offered to them and songwriters."
The Directive is expected to be implemented across all EU Member States by 2014.