16 August 2011

Recording Artists Soon Eligible for Termination Rights

In a nutshell, recording artists are on the cusp of being able to enjoy the benefits of a change in U.S. copyright law that went into effect in the 1970s.  Recording artists can file for termination rights, thus claiming ownership of their recordings away from record labels.  To claim termination rights, the artist must file two years in advance.  The first day that rights can be granted will be 1 January 2013.  Since the law applies to recordings 35 years of age, the first round of recordings up for grabs will be those produced in 1978.  The labels have already begun circling the wagons, arguing that sound recordings fall outside the scope of the copyright law change.  We'll see what comes of it in the next few years.  You can read the New York Times article here.

In case you're curious what some of the music of 1978 includes, here's a partial list of highlights.  Note: some of these albums were released early in 1978 and were likely recorded in 1977, so they may not fall under the scope of all this.
  • Darkness on the Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen
  • The Gambler, Kenny Rogers
  • London Town, Paul McCartney & Wings
  • Powerage, AC/DC
  • Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town, Emmylou Harris
  • Son of a Son of a Sailor, Jimmy Buffett
  • Songbird, Barbra Streisand
  • Stardust, Willie Nelson
  • Van Halen, Van Halen
  • Waylon & Willie, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson
  • 52nd Street, Billy Joel
Also released were solo albums by KISS members Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.  I've seen enough Gene Simmons Family Jewels to know that The Demon has probably already filled out his paperwork and is ready to go all Michael Corleone to see he gets ownership of his recordings.  Provided the world doesn't end in 2012 and that we don't do something incredibly stupid in the elections (like elect someone batshit crazy), this has the potential to be one of the biggest stories of 2013.  I wouldn't be surprised to see the ghost of Waylon Jennings file paperwork, too.  After all, he's the man who broke Nashville's studio system to pave the way for stronger creative power for country artists.  It's a shame Waymore isn't here to take part of the inaugural class of termination rights seekers.

Note: I have no idea whether soundtrack albums are part of this, or if those recordings are owned by the movie studios.  Theoretically, then, the soundtrack for Grease and John Williams's score for Superman might also be in the mix.

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