Thousands of artists will soon have the right to reclaim ownership of their recordings, leaving the labels out in the cold and with major decisions to make. When copyright law was revised in the mid-1970s, musicians, like creators of other works of art, 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. Now thanks to that little-noted provision in United States copyright law artists will be able to regain copyrights in 2013.
Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Bryan Adams, Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Waits and Charlie Daniels, are among the music stars trying to gain control of their copyrights, according to records on file at the United States Copyright Office.
Record labels already dealing with falling sales and the effects of online piracy, will likely to fight the move.
“This is a life-threatening change for them, the legal equivalent of Internet technology,” said Kenneth J. Abdo, a lawyer who leads a termination rights working group for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and has filed claims for some of his clients, who include Kool and the Gang. The four major record companies: Universal, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner, have made it clear that they will not relinquish recordings they consider their property without a fight.
The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents US record labels, said it did not believe the "termination right" applied to most sound recordings. Most albums were "works for hire" by musicians who were effectively employees at the time, they argue. If they are successful, artists would receive royalties that currently go to record companies.
Eagles star Don Henley - part of the Recording Artists Coalition, which seeks to protect the rights of musicians and songwriters - said his band thought it was "wise" to invoke the right. "Artists getting their masters back is a personal issue," he told the New York Times. "I don't want to presume to speak for others, but I know that I want mine back. I look at my masters as something I created. The work for hire clause attempts to state that the record labels are the creators of these works, which is absurd. The artists create these works and they should own them. It's as simple as that."
Read more about the situation here: nytimes.com