Copyright law helping artists reclaim song rights

Record labels will lose ownership of many 1978 hits

Major recording artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel could soon have full ownership of their major hits from the late 1970s, which will likely result in a serious financial blow to record labels.

A provision incorporated into U.S. copyright law in the mid-’70s granted “termination rights” to musicians, songwriters and other artists. These rights allow artists to reclaim the rights to their work after 35 years, as long as they apply for ownership two years in advance.

Recordings from 1978 are the first to fall under the law, and performers including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Bryan Adams have reported already filed to regain the rights to their songs from the late ’70s.

The recording industry, which has seen sales plummet due to illegal Internet downloads, contends that record companies own master recordings indefinitely because the recordings are created by musicians who are their employees. However, copyright experts say the artists are independent contractors, not employees, and therefore can reclaim the rights to their works.

Read more about how copyright law is influencing the music industry in The New York Times.

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.