Yesterday (June 25, 2014), the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held yet another hearing in its ongoing review of existing copyright law. (Our full recap is here; check out our coverage of the full series of hearings here.) Today, we’ll focus on one particular topic that has come up repeatedly in Congress and elsewhere: the lack of federal copyright protections for recordings made before February 15, 1972. read more
If you think about classic rock, soul, jazz, r&b and pop music, lots of names come to mind—the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis and Elvis, to name a few. What you may not realize is that federal copyright law doesn’t apply to recordings made by these performers before February 15, 1972.
This exception makes it hard for these artists—and thousands of less-known musicians and performers—to be paid for their contributions to musical culture. read more
WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Representatives George Holding (R-NC) and John Conyers (D-MI), introduced the RESPECT Act, a bill meant to create a limited performance right for the use of sound recordings by satellite and Internet radio companies.read more
If you’re a copyright nerd (wait, you’re not?), you may have come across the issue of “pre-’72s.” In a nutshell, recordings made before February 15, 1972 are not protected by federal law, which can complicate how—or whether—royalties are paid for certain uses, like plays on internet or satellite radio.
Many people are unaware that there wasn’t even a copyright for recordings until 1972. Well, that’s not entirely true—some sound recordings made before ’72 are copyrighted at the state level. Still, federal protections are relatively new. At least when compared to compositions, which have been protected since the early 1800s (public performances of musical works came under federal law in 1897).
Debates about pre-’72 recordings might seem arcane, but there are major implications for today’s music ecosystem. First there’s artist compensation. The absence of a performance right for pre-’72s means that there’s no guarantee that recording artists are going to get paid fairly for the use of their work when played on Internet or satellite radio. (AM/FM broadcasters aren’t obligated to pay performers anything, though they do pay songwriters; more info on this crazy loophole here.) The lack of federal recognition also makes it more complicated for services to obtain a license to play music—and where there is no permission, there’s potential liability.
Same issue, new lawsuit. The big three record labels (Sony, Universal and Warner Bros), along with indie ABKCO, are the latest to sueSiriusXM for underpayment of royalties for pre-1972 sound recordings.
[This post co-authored by FMC Policy Fellow Daniel Lieberman]
August in DC is traditionally a slow month. Election seasons are even slower. This year seems a little different, at least concerning an issue that could directly impact musicians. Within a span of six weeks, members of the House of Representatives on both sides of the aisle have introduced new legislation that aims to establish a more level playing field for radio royalties. read more
Sirius XM Radio set off a flurry of complaints from trade groups and labor unions late last month. It was trying to bypass the standard method of paying for digital streams — through a royalty clearinghouse called SoundExchange — and negotiate directly with record labels.
Sirius’s move was only the latest example of a gradual shift in the financial infrastructure of music. Many companies, from major labels to providers of background music, have been trying to reduce costs and gain control by circumventing the large organizations that have historically processed licenses and royalties. read more