Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Music Business/Law Tips - Copyright Reversion (35 Year Rule)

The 1976 Copyright Act added a provision that allows an artist (or songwriter) to reclaim ownership of masters (or songs) created from 1978 or thereafter once the 35 year term on those copyrights expire. Although it’s a bit more complex and the Act should be read to fully adhere, basically in order to trigger the reversion process, the artist/songwriter must file a termination notice with the label or publisher (and the Copyright Office) no earlier than 10 years and no later than 2 years before the 35 years of date of creation. A failure to miss this deadline waives the right to reclaim. The labels and music publishers who survive off their catalog of old hits cannot afford to lose the golden goose so they are fighting back under the theory that the original agreements with the artists/writers contained “work for hire” language that essentially made the label/publisher the author forever (i.e., the artist/writer waived the right to later claim ownership). A few lawsuits are starting to trickle through the system but there is no clear precedent yet (and they will probably will be resolved case by case if not settled out of court). Some artist/writers are using the threat to cut new deals. Note that Artists (or songwriters) who created masters (or songs) prior to 1978 can also reclaim their copyrights, yet under different and more lengthy timelines (but that is beyond the scope of this piece). Ben McLane Esq

Monday, July 14, 2014

Music Business/Law Tip - "Shazam"

Music Identification App “Shazam” is becoming a major player in the music space. Shazam helps people ID music playing on radio and TV, and the App lets people then share the song’s name on social media, download the song form iTunes, or stream it on Spotify. The power of Shazam for the health of the music business is twofold: 1. Last year alone it caused more than $300 million is iTunes sales (according to its website); 2. It’s a great way for new artists to be discovered (so it’s key for new artists to have their music available in the Shazam system/database). This year all the major labels bought a stake in Shazam so expect to hear more from Shazam. Ben McLane Esq