Beatles' First Single Enters Public Domain — In Europe

from the when-I'm-64 dept

The Beatles remain the iconic pop group, so news on VVN/Music that their very first single has now entered the public domain is something of a landmark moment in music:

The Beatles first single, Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You, has entered the public domain in Europe and small labels are already taking advantage of the situation.

The European copyright laws grant ownership of a recorded track for fifty years, which Love Me Do just passed. That means that, starting January 1 of 2013, anyone who wants to put out the track is free to do so.

Unfortunately, if you’re in the US, you’ll probably have to wait until 2049 or so. And things are about to get worse in Europe too. As Techdirt reported, back in 2011 the European Union agreed to increase the copyright term for sound recordings by 20 years, despite the absence of any economic justification for this theft from the public domain (yes, this is theft, because it’s taking something away that people had.)

Once the relevant legislation is passed around Europe, that means that most of the later Beatles singles — and many other famous pop music hits from the 1960s — won’t be in the public domain there until the 2030s, rather than in the next few years. It’s not yet clear whether the new 70-year term will be applied retroactively to works that have already entered the public domain, so Europeans may want to enjoy their right to distribute free copies of “Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You” recordings legally while they can….

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Comments on “Beatles' First Single Enters Public Domain — In Europe”

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shane (profile) says:

No, it's not theft

Music, ideas, words – these are not physical things. Me not being able to make a copy of it doesn’t mean I don’t have it tucked away in my brain. Taken at its most literal, everyone who has ever heard or seen anything copyrighted is violating the copyright. This of course is all the more reason that it is insipid for those who support copyright to argue as if it has anything to do with property in the classical sense of the word.

THAT is the issue.

You can’t have it both ways, tempting as it is to toss the word “theft” back and forth.

Otherwise, interesting piece.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No, it's not theft

Actually for something to be theft you have to deprive someone of the item. This can easily extend to non-physical things.

In this case, the public is being deprived the right to freely access this song. So by definition it is theft.

You could argue that by illegally copying a copyrighted file you are depriving the artist of money rightfully his, except it doesn’t exactly work that way:
* A download != a lost sale
* I loathe to equate ‘not making as much money as you expected to make’ with ‘losses’
* We all know the shady crap the MAFIAA pulls, barely anything will go to the actual artists
* etcetcetc

Duke (profile) says:

Re: Re: No, it's not theft

Actually for something to be theft you have to deprive someone of the item. This can easily extend to non-physical things.

Theft can extend to non-physical things, but under English law is restricted to property. A sound recording or song isn’t property (although the copyright in it is), so there is no theft in taking something out of the public domain (as at that point it isn’t anyone’s property – if anything you are creating property).

Arguably a reduction in copyright could be theft (and when we get there, expect all sorts of arguments from the copyright lobby on Article 1 Protocol 1 ECHR grounds), but another key element of theft under English law is “dishonesty.” That is going to be rather hard to show in these sorts of situations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No, it's not theft

riddle me this batman… if free is working so well (and there’s so much incentive to do so, and so much work being created and given away for free) why fight copyright at all?

wouldn’t it just be an antiquated concept for all practical purposes?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: No, it's not theft

and your counter argument is what exactly? hmmmmm… you don’t have one.

just wondering why you put so much effort into fighting copyright when it shouldn’t be needed 10 years after creative commons when all artists, musicians, creators should have realized working for free is the path to a sustainable career… oh wait… hmmmmm…. yeah, that probably doesn’t work… better work on more rationalization for stealing from artists and creators than…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No, it's not theft

Well, seeing as there are forty lawsuits in the US and the UK regarding unpaid royalties by musicians against their labels, I have to say that you’re full of shit.

Moreover, you cannot argue that copyright laws are an inhibition on the creation of cultural phenomena, because the DMCA gives us plenty of examples, including deliberate misrepresentation by the content funders in order to skim a little off of everyone.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No, it's not theft

just wondering why you put so much effort into fighting copyright when it shouldn’t be needed 10 years after creative commons

Because the copyright industry is putting a lot of effort into fighting against creative commons.

1) They try to shut down the distribution channels used by free content.

2) They sow FUD around free content distibution trying to discourage the masses from using it.

3) They try to tax free content (via levies on media, venue licensing etc.)

In short free content and copyright cannot coexist for long – the copyright lobby knows this and is trying to destroy free content. We have to respond to that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: No, it's not theft

but why are you fighting copyright is free culture is winning on it’s own merits? seems silly when 10 years after creative commons there should be no need for copyright when everything everyone wants is being made by people WILLING to give it away for free… or is the truth rather, you so desperately WANT what is not given for free that you need to make an argument in favor or stealing it?

but let’s not let that get in the way of the facts…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No, it's not theft

“or is the truth rather, you so desperately WANT what is not given for free that you need to make an argument in favor or stealing it?”

Or, assholes like yourself keep spreading lies and FUD about both CC and similar licences, and the people like us who support them? I pay for all of my content, yet whenever I question the glorious legacy models you love, I get accused of crimes. I wonder why your “facts” don’t get through? Could it be that you’re lying about the very people you’re trying to “talk” to?

If only you were capable of discussing the facts instead of the idiot strawmen you set up to defend the legacy industry, we might get somewhere. Alas, it’s all lies and distortions from the likes of you.

silverscarcat says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No, it's not theft

“there should be no need for copyright”

Couldn’t agree with you more on this.

But, let me give you 3 points to your whole post.

1: That site is a Copyright Apologist website that uses terms such as Big Tech and Copytheft (to describe those who wish to reform the Copyright system), therefore, it loses credibility instantly. (not to mention that when it says “Big Tech”, it just means Google.

2: Why should culture be locked up forever? DO you know how long culture has been under copyright? 4 Generations. My grandmother, my mother, myself, my cousins, my brothers, my cousins’ children, my niece and my children were all in the same room this last summer, and I realized that NONE of us had ANY works that were created, in OUR lifetimes, enter the Public Domain. And my grandmother is in her 70s. That makes zero sense, considering that if works such as the original Star Trek (made in the 60s) was in the Public Domain, well, just think about Marvel’s crossovers with Star Trek. They wouldn’t have to pay the Roddenberry estate any money if the original Star Trek was in the Public Domain. Also, think about this, Roddenberry died about 3 decades ago. So, for another 40 years (at minimum), Star Trek is under copyright. How does that make sense? (BTW, Star Trek, TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise were all thought up by Roddenberry before he died. How much NEW Star Trek has been seen since Enterprise ended? Just that one movie.)

3: Copyright, in and of itself, is not bad. It guarantees that creators are compensated for their works. However, the current copyright system is so broken that it makes no freaking sense!

For example, the song Eternal Blaze was sung by Japanese pop singer Nana Mizuki as the opening theme song to the anime “Lyrical Nanoha A’s”, which was created by the company 7Arcs.

And yet, when that song on Youtube gets taken down, it’s not 7Arcs or Nana Mizuki (or the songwriter, if there was one other than Nana Mizuki) that issued the DMCA takedown notice.

It’s King’s Records. Who are they? The distributors (via Sony) of Nana Mizuki’s records.


When you can have over 10 people claim copyright to one song, then things are so screwed up that something needs to be fixed.

I’m not even going to go into djazz1, the Megaupload case, or how Richard O’Dwyer (who was doing LEGAL STUFF IN THE U.K.) was treated.

Copyright in its current form is a mutated, rabid beast that needs to be fixed of its problems…

But if it can’t be fixed…

Then we should put it out of its misery.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 No, it's not theft

you misunderstand, copyright is what protects the creator from exploitation, and without copyright creators have no protection.

copyright allows the creator, BY CHOICE, to sell or leverage or partner with whomever they CHOSE. free culture seeks to remove all protections from creators removing their liberty and freedom of choice.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 No, it's not theft

By choice of the copyright OWNER, not the creator!!!

Big difference. Which is why DMCA’s have been used against artists putting up their own work on their own sites/pages!

Free culture seeks FAIRNESS, whereby any creator can post their material and use the web as a means of distribution, without having to compromise their music or sell away all their rights.

Free culture seeks to ensure copyrights are not used to lock away culture indefinitely, which is exactly the aim of copyright maximalists. Do you know why you’ve heard of classical works from the 1800’s and earlier? Because those works are in the public domain!

That’s what promotes culture! Tell me, how exactly does locking shit down so no one can build off of the work (without paying ridiculous licenses, even off of irrelevant works that could be morphed into something relevant) help promote culture?

70 years AFTER death? What the fuck does that do?

People here don’t necessarily hate copyright, they hate copyright abuse and that’s exactly what free culture tries to fight.

You know what your copyright monopolist culture hates, competition! Because you know you can’t compete? Or is it you don’t know how to share with other creators?

Do you honestly think cultures benefit from hiding things away or locking them down?

Hey, I got a plan, build your time machine, go to Bell Labs, patent the transistor, then lock that fucker up with IP up the ass so no one can build upon the technology and then try to return home and see what the world would be like!

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No, it's not theft

but why are you fighting copyright is free culture is winning on it’s own merits?

Why are you fighting for the freedom of Africans in the American South, when many have escaped slavery and enjoy freedom in the North?

I know I’m getting close to a Godwin here, but that statement is absurd enough to give me some leeway, not to mention the links to trichordist.

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Re: No, it's not theft

if [having works given away for] free is working so well (and there’s so much incentive to do so, and so much work being created and given away for free) why fight copyright at all?

So your argument is that where there is a legal regime that permits a certain behavior, and where there are alternatives, the market can be trusted to ultimately determine which one is best, and we should sit back and let it, rather than tinker with the law?

For example, you would support slavery in the antebellum south because, after all, the law enabled both the keeping of slaves and the freeing of slaves, and all the abolitionists had to do to prove their point was to demonstrate that it was more economically rational for slave owners to free their slaves than to keep them. No changes in the law were needed, nor force of arms.

I’m not convinced.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 No, it's not theft

From your link:

As ordered by the court, Google has submitted a new and longer list of bloggers and other commentators who have written about its ongoing patent litigation with Oracle, even as it continues to insist that it has never paid anyone to report or comment on the case.

Given bullshit patent disputes are hardly of interest to the mass populous, you won’t find too many mainstream media outlets discussing this on their front pages.

Could that be why copyright apologists who have a hardon for Google keep insisting that if you report something about Google that the mainstream does not, you’re somehow a shill?

I think so! Thanks for confirming.

I wonder what other extrapolations we can make, oh, how about the movie industry will lose $850 000 000 000 000 000 in 2013 due to piracy?

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“By that logic, a reduction of copyright term would be theft.”

Uhh…how? Copyright is the removal of everyone else’s right to copy specific works. If the term of copyright is reduced, then their rights are restored sooner. The copyright holder does not gain or lose anything (not even the illusion of control since we now live in the Digital Age).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Thank you. The hyperbole of using theft is worn out. It is only if the extention is retrospective there can be made any kind of argument for theft.
Even in that case we are talking about removal of a right rather than theft since you cannot loose the right to the interpretation of Love Me Do you did yourself. And even if you would be forced to pay royalties to The Beatles mess, you are still allowed to play your own music privately, in your own house. It is not like you loose the music.

I see the trap Glen put in the text about property here. It is a bit devious since if any of the copyright protectors should want to point to it they either have to agree with him or commit hybris level hypocricy. Average_Joe should be proud that he has taught Glen something!

Duke (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I tried to answer this in more detail below (took me a while to research, so the parent got in first) but the tl;dr is that this is only the copyright in the sound recordings – the copyright in the underlying songs (the lyrics and tune) last until 70 years after the end of the year in which the last author died.

Carlos Sol?s a.k.a. ArkBlitz (in the rest of the I (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Exactly. And for the lyrics and tune to be in the worldwide public domain, we must wait not 70, but 100 years after the death of the last among McCartney, Starr and all other authors. Which means that, unless the average lifespan increases dramatically, we won’t be able to live the day when the aforementioned song enters the true public domain.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The way I understand it is that only the version of the song recorded by The Beatles is now public domain. So, you can use the recording itself however you wish (which I believe includes resale, redistribution and transformational use such as sampling), but you can’t do anything with the song that involves re-recording, quoting lyrics, etc.

Of course, I could be wrong and the copyright remaining on the songwriting makes it unusable even though it’s technically in the public domain, but such is the utter retarded mess that is modern copyright.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No – it’s not that good.

The public actually don’t get any usable new rights here. The song remains in copyright for life plus 70 (which none of us is likely to live to see – Paul McCartney still being alive. However there will be no more royalties for those who merely played on the recording – only the songwriters will continue to get them.

The situation is rather different for recordings of classical music – as most of that is in the public domain (composition wise) and SHOULD be in the clear. However, even here there could still be dirty tricks played by arrangers who might claim copyright on some minor edit they made to the score.

Monpauvrlieu (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The composition is still copyrighted: there are royalties to pay for any use.
The recording (= the interpretation) entered in Public Domain.
So no Royalties are still given for this interpretation.
Before it entered in Public Domain, there was Royaltoes for the composition AND the interpretation, these latter have ceased.

Duke (profile) says:

Not in the Public Domain yet...

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty certain that no Beatles’ songs will be in the public domain for quite a while; while the copyright in the recordings expires 50 years from the end of the year in which they were first made (or from when they were first published if published during that period), copyright in the underling songs (the lyrics as literary works, and tunes as musical works) lasts for until 70 years from the end of the year in which the last author died.

That means even the songs written just by John Lennon won’t enter the public domain until 2051.

Of course, the key difference between the types of copyright is that the copyright in the sound recording automatically goes to the publisher (i.e. the record label) whereas ownership of the copyright in the songs is a bit more complex. It may be that these other record labels have managed to obtain licences from the appropriate copyright owner, and it is just the original record labels kicking up a fuss.

As for the details of how the copyright extension is going to be implemented (whether retroactively or not), the UK’s IPO is consulting on this at the moment. As far as I can tell (from skimming the document) sound recordings already out of copyright won’t go back into copyright, but some literary and musical works will (due to new rules on where the music and words for a song are written by different people, whereby the copyrights are sort of joined so if one author dies first, the copyright in her part continues until 70 years from the end of the year in which the other author dies).

Ninja (profile) says:

I disagree with the theft part due to definitions here. You cannot steal intangible stuff like songs, lyrics or whatever.

First we have to make it clear that there are natural, inalienable. Public domain is such right. Your right to live is such right. Laws generally deal with cases where an individual rights are disrespected.

In that sense Public Domain is a natural right and copyright is a temporary privilege, monopoly granted by the Government so the execution of an idea can be protected from commercial exploitation.

In any case what the EU did was deprive the public from their natural right with no explanation whatsoever. So while it’s not theft it is a serious violation of the public rights and should be treated accordingly. It’s not up to me to decide what the proper penalties should be or what course of action to take.

Most of us agree that it’s a problem when some 3rd party exploits some creation commercially without giving a damn to the creator and even some hardcore pirates I know agree with that so the notion of copyright is actually generally accepted. What is NOT accepted is the implementation of such notion.

In any case, file sharing will always be there to allow access to culture. Regardless of how much the MAFIAA and the likes try to violate such right.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m talking about those too. If we use the word theft we’ll be playing into the MAFIAA’s weasel wording. It’s a violation of the public natural rights. You can think of it as theft in the sense that you are depriving the public from access to works that should be in the public domain but strictly speaking it’s not. The works still exist and you can still copy at will.

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