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Copyright Loophole May Hurt US Record Labels

Huge artists such Bruce Springsteen & Bob Dylan may take full control of their own catalogues in two years

Rolling Stone Magazine has picked up an article in the New York Time which says that an obscure loophole in US copyright law may see some of the biggest artists in the world regain full ownership of their own back catalogues.

According to the report, when copyright law was revised in the mid-Seventies artists were granted "termination rights," which would give them the right to take back control of their works after 35 years as long as they applied for it two years in advance. 

Albums and singles released in 1978 will be the first wave of recordings subject to this rule. Several artists, including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Loretta Lynn, Tom Waits and Bryan Adams, have already filed to reclaim qualifying works, according to records at the United States Copyright Office. 

What does this mean?

Well, artists who regain control of their royalties would start receiving all of the money for their music, rather than a part of it. This could spell a disaster for labels who rely on a stead, low overhead income from their catalogue material.

All four major record companies – Universal, EMI, Warner and Sony BMG – have already made it clear that they will not give up the recordings without a major legal battle. Steven Marks, a lobbyist for the Recording Industry Association of America, told the New York Times that his organization believes that "the termination right doesn't apply to most sound recordings" and that master recordings were made for the labels strictly as "works for hire." The labels are likely to cling to this reasoning if they are forced into a court case in 2013.

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