Do You Own Masters on Recordings from Prior to 1972?

December 22, 2010

The US Copyright Office published this notice that it will study granting federal protection to pre-1972 sound recordings.

A2IM needs music labels with pre-1972 recordings to contact us so that we know how many of our members this may affect and to better represent your needs.

  • Most importantly, we need A2IM members with pre-1972 recordings to weigh in on their music masters preservation status needs and the limited resources they have to do this preservation. We will propose federal funding for retention of masters, the “storage, categorization and digitization” of music.

We may also request some labels owning such masters to sign the brief that A2IM will be filing on behalf of our members on this issue.

What’s at stake?

a)      U.S. Federal Copyright Law does not cover pre-1972 copyrights (instead they’re covered by individual state laws).  Federal protection of these copyrights will provide more robust safety valves for unauthorized but socially valuable use of pre-1972 works (eg. libraries, educational institutions, museums, etc.) but could also result in for-profit use of copyrights that are still commercially viable and which need to be protected so we can make money on them!

b)      Expanding Federal Copyright Laws comes at the expense of some states’ piracy protections/infringement remedies, including for instance DMCA safe harbors that Veoh and YouTube have used to win court rulings that have been unfavorable to content owners.  State laws tend to be stronger against piracy, why give up these stricter and State remedies?

c)       Would labels be covered by “work for hire” legislation from the 1970s for pre-1972 copyrights?  Under the federal law, would labels continue to own these copyrights or would the rights revert to the artists?

d)     There’s currently a risk that some services may decide they do not need to pay SoundExchange for the performance of pre-1972 sound recordings.  In our filing, we will propose an amendment to Section 114 of the federal law that would fix that problem.

A2iM must present our initial written comments by January 31st so please contact us the first week in January so that we’re well positioned to have our filing completed and correct in advance of this deadline.

TAGS: copyright office DMCA federal protection pre-1972 recordings Sirius/XM Veoh Viacom work for hire YouTube