Labels Barely Release 1964 Dylan, Beach Boys Archive Materials Solely To Get Extended Copyrights

from the promoting-the-progress! dept

Two years ago we wrote about the very odd release, by Sony, of just 100 copies of a set of previously unreleased Bob Dylan tracks. Why so few? Well, Sony sort of revealed the secret in the name of the title. See if you can spot it:

Yup. The release had absolutely nothing to do with actually getting the works out to fans, and absolutely everything to do with copyright. You see, back in 2011, despite having absolutely no economic rationale for doing so, the EU retroactively extended copyright on music from 50 years to 70 years. However, there was a tiny catch: there was a “use it or lose it” provision in the law, saying that the music had to have been “released” to qualify for that 20 year extension. Thus, Sony realized with Dylan that it had to “release” (and I use the term loosely) some of its old recordings that had never been officially released, or it would lose the copyright on them.

The other major labels have been doing the same. Last year, there was a series of releases of 1963 music, including more from Dylan, along with some previously unreleased Beatles tunes (at least those were somewhat more widely available). This year, we’re getting a new crop of barely released 1964 songs including (yet again) more from Dylan, along with some from the Beach Boys as well (and some expect more Beatles tunes as well).

The Beach Boys released two copyright extension sets this week, both as downloads. The first, ?Keep an Eye on Summer: The Beach Boys Sessions 1964,? is a collection of session outtakes, including working versions and remixes of ?Fun Fun Fun,? ?Don?t Worry Baby,? ?I Get Around? and other hits, as well as live BBC recordings. The second, ?The Beach Boys Live in Sacramento 1964,? includes two full concert performances.

A spokeswoman for Universal said that the label has ?no current plans? for a Beatles release, but last year Universal and the Beatles? label, Apple, kept plans under wraps until just before ?The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963? turned up on iTunes. The group?s unreleased 1964 recordings include studio outtakes from the ?Hard Day?s Night? and ?Beatles for Sale? albums, as well as several BBC appearances and soundboard tapes of the band?s concerts in Paris, Melbourne, Adelaide, Vancouver, Philadelphia and several other cities.

At least when they’re released on iTunes, people can get them, unlike the very limited CD releases some have chosen. But, either way, this music isn’t being released for any legitimate reason. They’re solely being “released” to keep them out of the public domain. It’s difficult to see how that has anything to do with furthering the interests of the public and culture. And it certainly highlights how ridiculous the copyright extension effort from 2011 was in the first place. It doesn’t serve the public in the slightest, but it has offered up a chance for record labels to keep works out of the public domain for as long as possible.

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Companies: sony, universal music

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Comments on “Labels Barely Release 1964 Dylan, Beach Boys Archive Materials Solely To Get Extended Copyrights”

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Dave Cortright says:

The internet has routed around Sony's damage

The free market has spoken:

David says:


Of course it was important for them to retain copyright with those “releases”, or people would have copied and distributed this, and worse, it would have been played on the radio.

Every minute of non-copyrighted music on the radio is a minute of lost profits for the labels. And worse, much worse: it doesn’t stop there. People get reminded of artists for which they already bought records in their prime time. So they take out their old records and listen to them instead of buying new records.

The main purpose of this release is to keep this music from, well, being released.

The music industry kills off other has-beens even without copyright being in danger of running out, never mind that they are better than the current crop of the year. Because the most profitable music is the one people buy, but then don’t really listen to a lot.

Obviously, half-naked youths and/or boy groups are good for that: you buy the discs because of their cover rather than the music that gets on your nerves too fast. And half-naked youths tend to become old fast anyway.

With boy groups, this works because of their fans growing older, too. They become uninterested and embarrassed, but by the time they would be handing their CDs on to someone else, nobody knows the group any more.

If old Beatles or Dylan recordings were able to come into the game without royalties, they would really cut into air time, and they would also make other old records (even if copyrighted) interesting both for listening and resale.

Any record that is resold or relistened to cuts into the purses of the music industry as they don’t get another cut for it.

So it’s important to keep the old recordings dead and buried, to make room for the living.

Let’s raise the dead and kill them.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, that music was so important to them they sat on it for 50 years …

As someone who’s always despised that ridiculous nasal twang of Dylan’s, I’m grateful. Please do keep sitting on it. How anyone could manage to bring themselves to enjoy his singing, I’ll never know.

I’m aware he’s a composer/poet and lyricist too, and others have done good things with that part of his work, but no, I don’t want to hear him sing ever again.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

100 copies is the same as a billion copies since it’s available at The Pirate Bay.

But “use it or lose it” might be the only viable copyright reform in the internet age. If the people that own the copyright on something can’t make the material available to the public, then it should revert to the public domain. There’s just no reason that everything ever created shouldn’t be online somewhere.

A.H. says:

Canada 'releases'

Canada deals with this issue in the Copyright Act to some extent: first publication generally must be made ‘in such a quantity as to satisfy the reasonable demands of the public.’
Can’t say that such a clause offers a cast-iron guarantee against disingenuous ‘releases’ like this, but it probably helps, especially given that the reasonable demands of the public over unreleased Dylan music would likely exceed 100 people.

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