And the music labels thought that the seas of music are calmer these days? Hoping to re-napster themselves and capture licensed music in a bottle this time around, the very core of the labels music is leaking and the ship might never really leave the store. The vast majority of music revenue is generated from its catalog. It sells way more than the current fare released on itunes, etc. ENTER: The copyright monster.
If an artist or author sold a copyright before 1978 (Section 304), they or their heirs can take it back 56 years later. If the artist or author sold the copyright during or after 1978 (Section 203), they can terminate that grant after 35 years. Assuming all the proper paperwork gets done in time, record labels could lose sound recording copyrights they bought in 1978 starting in 2013, 1979 in 2014, and so on. For 1953-and-earlier music, grants can already be terminated. The Eagles plan to file grant termination notices by the end of the year, according to Law.com.
The record labels have two options for fending off notices of termination, neither of which looks good. The first is to continue to claim that albums are compilations, which doesn’t pass the common-sense test (compilations include songs from different artists), and probably won’t pass legal muster either. The second is to re-record the album in order to create new sound recording copyrights, which would reset the countdown clock at 35 years for copyright grant termination.
But wait, didn’t’ someone just try that? This might sound familiar, because BlueBeat.com employed similar logic in creating new copyrights to Beatles songs — right before it was sued by EMI and a judge barred them from continuing to sell the songs. So the music industry now needs to prepare for a new round of bleeding. And, its not just the Eagles, the same lawyer that represents the Eagles ALSO reps Barbara Streisand, Journey among others. Those three artists alone sell a significant back-catalog of music. Next year, it will all change.