After 35 years, new opportunity for musicians

This issue doesn’t apply to most indie musicians, nor to younger musicians, but it’s an interesting new challenge for the recording industry that affects many of the biggest recording artists from the 70’s. According to a little-noted provision in United States copyright law, artists now have the right to reclaim ownership of their recordings, potentially leaving the labels out in the cold.

When copyright law was revised in the mid-1970s, musicians were granted “termination rights,” which allow them to regain control of their work after 35 years, so long as they apply at least two years in advance. Recordings from 1978 (like Billy Joel’s “52nd Street”, Bruce Springstein’s “Darkness of the Edge of Town”, the Doobie Brothers’ “Minute by Minute” and Kenny Rogers’ “Gambler”) are the first to fall under the purview of the law, but in a matter of months, hits from 1979, like “The Long Run” by the Eagles and “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer, will be in the same situation — and then, as the calendar advances, every other master recording once it reaches the 35-year mark.

Read the whole New York Times article here.


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