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Sunday, 19 April 2015

Copyright Extension Collections 1962 - ???

The law in Europe regarding how long copyright on an audio recording can remain in copyright without being published was recently revised (from Directive 2006/116/EU to Directive 2011/77/EU), and the total amount of copyright protection was extended from 50 to 70 years. This ONLY covers published recordings.

"The term in Directive 2006/116/EC[5] is 50 years after publishing the performance, or 50 years after the performance if it is not published"

The consideration then has to be whether there is a "Full on" commercial release of some of this stuff or if it comes out via these annual EU releases. I assume this has prompted the release of the complete Basement Tapes (which would have lost copyright for the unreleased material in 2017 - just three years away) and the vague talk of a complete Blonde On Blonde multi- disc set. Consider that the Basement Tapes set comes despite earlier claims from Sony that they were done with Bootleg Series releases from the 1960's.

There has been some talk on various sites (not just Dylan) that the record companies should 'degrade' the sound for these releases, or (as in the case of the Beatles) not release anything at all and let the stuff go out of copyright or that the copyright law is a 'disaster' for the companies. Similarly, it's been suggested that Sony should or will only release material that has already been bootlegged (an illogical argument since it means non-bootlegged material goes out of copyright) and would rather lose copyright on 'secure' stuff than allow people such as myself (lowly fan) to hear it. This doesn't take into account the fact that there are many people who know a guy who knows a guy who worked at the record company etc...and they are sitting on tapes of stuff you've never heard of. Usually it's fear of the law that stops this stuff coming into wider circulation. Suddenly a tape from 1965 becomes public domain et voila...the holder has the right to release it, commercially if he or she desires. That situation, to my mind, is far damaging to the artist's catalog and reputation if suddenly there are 'Live 1965' audience recordings being legitimately sold on alongside 'Highway 61 Revisited' due to this 'protection gap' law.

Personally, I don't get these arguments - this stuff, while it might seem like the Holy Grail to collectors in some cases, is in reality just alternate takes or material recorded for projects that never materialized. It's not gold dust or uncut diamond. The 'value' is greatly over-estimated by collectors who are used to being drip-fed releases and assume outtakes and alternate takes are guarded in a vault by men with machine guns...the law isn't unreasonable - if you've sat on something for 50 years, the likelihood is that it's not really of great commercial value. So why not let hardcore fans hear this stuff and at least you can retain copyright in the future. Everyone wins.

The copyright law as it stands makes perfect sense, and I don't think the record companies are losing out because of it. They've had 50 years to put this stuff out commercially and they haven't done so. So I think it's reasonable that these minor fan-centered releases continue to come out annually.

I will be looking forward to the 1965 set.

(Photo pilfered from Geir Olsen on Facebook)

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