The Beatles and “the Cliff Richard law”
|A single from Kutmusic|
It’s been dubbed by the media as “Cliff Richard’s Law”, the change to copyright duration in sound recordings.
From 1 November 2013, The Copyright and Duration of Rights in Performances Regulations 2013 came into force, implementing the provisions of Directive 2011/77/EU which extended the term of copyright in sound recordings from 50 to 70 years. The change came after years of political wrangling and means that performers are entitled to receive income for an additional 20 years. Additional measures were also included to improve performers’ revenue.
Extension from 50 to 70 years
One song can contain a number of different rights, for example copyright in both the music score and in the lyrics, both of which lasted for 70 years after the death of the author. In contrast, copyright in the actual sound recording, however, and the duration of a performers’ rights in the recording only lasted for 50 years. The new Directive extended both of these terms from 50 years to 70 years, therefore narrowing the gap.
While some critics argued that many musicians would see little benefit, a study by the European Commission (“EC”) found that extension of this term would give average performers additional income ranging from €150 to €2,000 per year, mostly from airplay royalties. Although these sums are fairly insignificant to many of the big names in the music industry, they are considerable for many other musicians, particularly session musicians. The EC also pointed out that many performers started their career in their 20s and that with life expectancy increasing, a performer who lives into his 80s and beyond would not be able to continue to benefit from the recording at what the EC pointed out to be a particularly vulnerable time of life.
It should be noted, however, that the extension will only apply to sound recordings that are created after 1. November, or that are still in copyright protection on 31 October 2013. It would not therefore bring a sound recording back into copyright where this protection has already expired after the 50 years.
Use it or lose it
“Use it or lose it”: If a record company fails to market a sound recording during the extended period, assigned rights in the recording may revert back to the performer.
|Work in Progress – Outtakes 1963 from Rock Melon|
It is that last sentence which made The Beatles release the title “Bootleg Recordings 1963” at the end of last year. They tried to release everything that was still unreleased recordings from 1963 in order to retain their copyright to these recordings. However, they failed. A number of 1963 recordings remained unreleased, and therefore entered the public domain on January 1st, 2014. This was then taken advantage of by several minor record companies, who went on to release these songs, live performances and takes of songs in 2014.
A release called The Beatles: Work in progress from the Rock Melon label continues to be available in Europe, and is showing healthy sales.
Now that the final day of 2014 is upon us, unless the Beatles/Apple/Universal Music are putting these last few hours to good use, all unreleased Beatles recordings from 1964 will become fair game for companies like Kutmusic and Rock Melon. Unless there’s something I’ve missed.
We are talking studio session outtakes and unreleased radio material, but the main source will be live recordings of Beatles concerts. There are lots of these available on bootlegs, and this material will now be available for both big and small record companies to profit from. Hitherto unknown live recordings may also appear from fans’ private collections during the year.
As “The Beatles Live Project” is on Apple’s official agenda for 2015, they will have an opportunity to counteract by releasing lots of this kind of material officially, with nice packaging, liner notes, photos etc that the independent labels probably can’t afford. Still, once the official packages are out, it looks to me like anyone else can just duplicate the stuff and market it at lower prices.
It’s going to be an interesting year for Beatles fans.