Are Labels About To Lose Revenues From Older Recordings?
August 15, 2011 at 6:24 AM (PT)
Will artists start pocketing the money that until recently has been going to the bottom line of their labels? Yes, reports THE NEW YORK TIMES, writing, "since their release in 1978, hit albums like BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN's 'Darkness at the Edge of Town,' BILLY JOEL's '52nd Street,' THE DOOBIE BROTHERS' 'Minute by Minute,' KENNY ROGERS's 'Gambler' and FUNKADELIC's 'One Nation Under a Groove' have generated tens of millions of dollars for record companies. But thanks to a little-noted provision in UNITED STATES copyright law, those artists -- and thousands more -- now have the right to reclaim ownership of their recordings, potentially leaving the labels out in the cold."
The reports explains "termination rights," which were granted as part of a revised copyright law. After 35 years, songwriters have the ability to reclaim ownership of their recordings. Music from 1978 will be the first to be able to use this legislation.
"In terms of all those big acts you name, the recording industry has made a gazillion dollars on those masters, more than the artists have," said DON HENLEY. "So there’s an issue of parity here, of fairness. This is a bone of contention, and it’s going to get more contentious in the next couple of years."
The RIAA, representing record labels has issues with the law. "We believe the termination right doesn't apply to most sound recordings," said RIAA General Counsel STEVEN MARKS. THE TIMES notes, "as record companies see it, the master recordings belong to them in perpetuity, rather than to the artists who wrote and recorded the songs, because, the labels argue, the records are 'works for hire,' compilations created not by independent performers but by musicians who are, in essence, their employees."
"My gut feeling is that the issue could even make it to THE SUPREME COURT," Entertainment Lawyer LITA ROSARIO told THE TIMES. "Some lawyers and managers see this as an opportunity to go in and renegotiate a new and better deal. But I think there are going to be some artists who feel so strongly about this that they are not going to want to settle, and will insist on getting all their rights back."