Copyright

Copyright Extension Season

When a music release isn't really a release.

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The New York Times's Allan Kozinn writes:

Not to be confused with the Bootleg Series.
Sony

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and there's a nip in the air—no question about it, European Copyright Extension season is upon us.

Since 2012, when the European Union passed a revised copyright law, extending the copyright on recordings from 50 years to 70—but only if the recording was published during its first 50 years—record companies have been exploring their vaults for potentially marketable material in danger of losing its copyright protection if it is not released.

That first year, Motown released a series of albums packed with outtakes by some of its major acts, and Sony released a limited-edition collection of 1962 outtakes by Bob Dylan, with the surprisingly frank title, "The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol. I." In 2013, Sony released a second Dylan set, devoted to previously unreleased 1963 recordings. Similar recordings by the Beatles and the Beach Boys followed.

For collectors, these sets are a boon, and they are becoming increasingly plentiful as the 50th anniversary of each year of the 1960s rolls around, moving deeper into the rock era. Record labels, however, have complied with the publication requirement reluctantly, releasing the sets in small quantities, or making them available only as digital downloads.

Over at TechDirt, Mike Masnick points out that the digital downloads are at least widely available for people to purchase. The CDs and LPs, on the other hand, are "released" in such tiny runs—only 100 copies of The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol. I were shipped—that it may be misleading to call them releases at all. If anything, they exist to prevent the wider releases that the recordings would likely get if they were in the public domain.

That said, the music is likely to find its way to fans anyway. "Sony has told European retailers that it will release a nine-LP set of 1964 recordings by Mr. Dylan, possibly as early as next week," Kozinn reports. "Only 1,000 copies will be available, but if past years are any guide, collectors who obtain copies are likely to make copies available online before the year is out."

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  1. If anything, they exist to prevent the wider releases that the recordings would likely get if they were in the public domain.

    Please make up your mind. A right is a right, so why would a right be contingent upon a threshold number of releases?

    Why not simply succumb to the obvious and realize that IP is NOT real property but a state-imposed monopoly enjoyed by a few who call themselves “originators”? True property rights are clear-cut: this is mine, because it can’t be yours. IP is this is mine because I thought it first, even if you can think it, too. It is as silly and as destructive as that, because it makes hash of true property rights.

    1. Why not simply succumb to the obvious and realize that IP is NOT real property but a state-imposed monopoly enjoyed by a few who call themselves “originators”? True property rights are clear-cut: this is mine, because it can’t be yours. IP is this is mine because I thought it first, even if you can think it, too

      But isn’t JK Rowling the originator of Harry Potter? She put her imagination and work into a product. Why isn’t it hers?

      I am speaking of the stories as she wrote them, not derivative works.

  2. Honest question – If no one else had these recordings, how would anyone make use of them if they did lapse into the public domain?

    I mean the company isn’t exploiting them, and clearly doesn’t plan on making actual use of them. If they never released it, lapsing woulnd’t have hurt them regardless because no one would have a copy.

    1. Re: UnCivilServant,

      Honest question – If no one else had these recordings, how would anyone make use of them if they did lapse into the public domain?

      Well, the proposition that no one else has these recordings is just a guess. It is possible different people around the world have most of those old records stashed away in their basements or attics or at mama’s house and could make some money through re-releases of their own, once the noise of the old LPs is taken out. It is certainly possible. But is the potential income derived from those re-releases be enough to waste money on re-releasing these recordings all at once, even in a limited number? That’s a lot of capital expense!

      The whole idea that a recording company would go through the expense of re-releasing old recordings just to stop someone else from raking in some dough makes me wonder if recording companies are all populated by Maxists who know nothing of marginal utility and the law of diminishing returns. What would be the point of going through an expense that returns nothing?

      1. But these aren’t re-releases, this material was never released in the first place.

        1. Ah, yes, I see what you mean. I thought these were limited re-releases, not unreleased recordings.

        2. True, but the point stands anyway.

          “Here’s some stuff we’ve had lying around for 45 years and never had any intention of releasing because we didn’t think we’d make money on it. But God forbid someone ELSE release it in a few years, including the artist themselves if they’re still alive.”

          The “limited” release ensures that no profits are made that would require paying the artist. Pure territorial pissing is all.

  3. “Only 1,000 copies will be available, but if past years are any guide, collectors who obtain copies are likely to make copies available online before the year is out.”

    From my own experience, more likely they’ll be available online before they even hit the stores. I was actually finding downloads on the ‘net of our 5th album before I got our legit copies from the label…..

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