The US Copyright Office last week published in the Federal Register this notice that it will study granting federal protection to pre-1972 sound recordings. As part of the study, it is requesting your comments regarding the economic impact on rights holders and how best to achieve copyright protection for pre-1972 sound recordings.
What would this mean to you or your clients?
First, consider some background: Copyrights to sound recordings secured after February 1972 are covered by federal copyright law, but prior sound recording copyrights are covered by state law or common law only (so protection varies from state to state). Some of my music clients and their heirs have been or may in the future be able to terminate or revoke copyright grants for pre-1972 compositions, but they cannot do so for pre-1972 sound recordings, partly because the copyright laws that allow authors to terminate grants relate only to federally protected copyrights.
If federal copyright protection is granted to such pre-1972 sound recordings, it will make it easier for artists to get "a second bite of the apple" as some say; artists who authored pre-1972 recordings can make a much stronger case for getting their copyrights back. Thus, increased copyright protection may be good news for recording artists and their heirs, bad news for digital music services who do not pay royalties for pre-1972 sound recordings (see David Oxenford, Esq.'s blog post here), and mixed news for record companies.
As a royalty auditor on behalf of many recording artists, I support copyright protection for pre-1972 sound recordings. Whether or not you agree with me, I implore you to send your comments - due by December 20, 2010 - to the Copyright Office in accordance with the instructions set forth in its notice. Thank you.