For record la­bels, 35 years of rev­enue just isn’t enough

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - News -

THE LAW GIVETH and the law taketh away. Record la­bels world­wide al­ways call their le­gal ea­gles when the go­ing gets tough and those pesky kids need to be slapped down.

We’ve seen al­ready in 2012, that the record in­dus­try favours court ac­tion and gov­ern­men­tal lob­by­ing rather than try­ing some­thing new.

But oc­ca­sion­ally the ta­bles are turned and la­bels are caught rapid by some­one us­ing the law against them and their in­ter­ests. Say hello to Sec­tion 203 of the Copy­right Act 1976 from the United States Congress. This al­lows mu­si­cians who sold the rights to their mu­sic to ter­mi­nate those ar­range­ments af­ter 35 years, pro­vided they give ad­vance no­tice to the la­bels.

The law was passed in 1978, which means 2013 is when acts such as Bob Dy­lan, Tom Petty, Tom Waits and many other song­writ­ers can re­gain con­trol of their copy­rights and, es­pe­cially, the rev­enue their songs are still earn­ing.

The no­tice let­ters are al­ready flow­ing and la­bels and pub­lish­ers are go­ing through the act with a fine tooth­comb in an ef­fort to re­duce their losses. It seems 35 years is just not long enough to ex­ploit an act’s cat­a­logue. What the la­bels fear is that the acts will now ne­go­ti­ate more favourable con­tracts for them­selves, some­thing the la­bels rarely of­fered back in the day.

As the la­bels view ex­ploit­ing back-cat­a­logues as an eas­ier source of cash than the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of de­vel­op­ing new acts, they cer­tainly don’t want to lose valu­able al­bums to acts who might well go else­where or, worse, go it alone.

It’s the per­fect metaphor to sum up the de­cline of a once vi­brant in­dus­try.

‘Users, cheaters, six-time losers . . .’ Bob was no fan of the in­dus­try even in 1966.

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