December 9, 2011

Is the record industry hurting? What is their attitude?

With the recording industry already reeling from plummeting sales, termination rights claims could be another serious financial blow.  Sales plunged from $14.6 billion to about $6.3 billion over the decade ending in 2009, in large part because of unauthorized downloading of music on the Internet.  This has affected new releases especially, which has left record labels disproportionately dependent on sales of older recordings in their catalogs.
“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.  As a result 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.
“We believe the termination right doesn’t apply to most sound recordings,” said Steven Marks, general counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America, a lobbying group in Washington that represents the interests of record labels.  As the record companies see it, the master recordings belong to them in perpetuity, rather than to the artists who wrote and recorded the songs, because, the labels argue, the records are “works for hire,” compilations created not by independent performers but by musicians who are, in essence, their employees.  Here again, greed rules the music industry!

A songwriters need to know!!!!!


Member Services's picture
The Recording Academy was recently referenced in a New York Times article about the looming issues related to copyright termination.  Since its testimony at a Congressional hearing in 1999, The Academy has been active in protecting music creators’ rights to regain ownership of their copyrights.  Because 2011 is an important year for filing termination notices for some works, it is important that Academy members understand this critical issue.

Under the Copyright Act, authors (and their statutory heirs) may terminate certain transfers of copyrights that were effected in 1978 and after on the 35th anniversary of the transfer (although in some circumstances, different time frames may be applicable).  Transfers of sound recordings and musical compositions are among the classes of copyright transfers that may be terminable.  An author's right to reclaim ownership of his or her copyright(s) is optional and must be exercised in accordance with strict notice provisions and within strict time limits.  If you are the author of sound recording(s) and/or musical composition(s) that were transferred to third parties, it would be advisable to  contact your attorney or other advisors to learn more about this important topic.