Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The Times They Are A’ Changin’: Sony Exploits Recent Copyright Term Extension, Releases 50 Year Old Bob Dylan Tapes
After a recent European Union Directive, which extended the term of copyright for sound recordings, Sony has released a collection of Bob Dylan tapes in order to take full advantage of the situation. The 2011 Directive extends the term of protection for sound recording copyrights from 50 to 70 years. But, the work must be published within 50 years of creation. Recordings by many popular British bands of the 1960s, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Who, are right at the 50 year mark. Sony recognized that the 50 year window’s expiration was approaching and released the tapes.
If not released before January 1, 2013, the works would have been dedicated to the public domain and free for anyone to exploit without requiring permission or payment to Sony. The new release, “Bob Dylan: The Copyright Extension Collection Vol. 1,” includes alternate takes of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Bob Dylan’s Dream” and “I Shall Be Free,” as well songs that missed final cuts and live performances from Carnegie Hall.
The Directive, named “Cliff’s Law” after the 1960s British pop singer who campaigned aggressively for the extension, is seen as a victory for many aging superstars, including the aforementioned British invaders, as well as American artists like Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, and Mr. Dylan, who recorded in Europe. In an interview with the BBC, The Who’s Robert Daltrey explained that the Directive ensured that artists could continue to receive royalties into their old age. “They are not asking for a handout,” he said, “just a fair reward for their creative endeavors.”
Not everyone is as pleased with the extension, however. The Electronic Frontier Foundation points to numerous reports concluding that longer terms will not benefit the smaller acts and session artists whom the Directive was designed to protect. A study by the Center for Intellectual Property Policy and Management at Bournemouth University in England calculates that 72% of the financial benefits from the Directive will accrue to record labels, and the vast majority of the remainder to superstar acts, not those musicians identified in the Directive. And many argue that restricting the public’s access to recorded works for another 20 years will hinder creativity, an outcome seemingly at odds with a fundamental aim of copyright law.
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