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The Beatles and the 50 year copyright rule
11 January 2013
5.20pm
Ron Nasty
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An interesting event on the European 50 year copyright law has come to light in recent days, which opens a question about whether a whole slew of Beatles outtakes may gain a limited official release.

Bob Dylan, at the end of last year, released a 86-track limited edition box set that was distributed to various record stores across Europe, including the UK. It consisted of outtakes from "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan", some home recordings, and a couple of live shows. It was titled "The 50th Anniversary Collected", but its real intent was shown by its subtitle, “The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol 1”. There were only 100 copies released, but I wonder how long before bootleg copies are readily available.

The Independent said on Wednesday:

"It is understood that the release is an attempt to stop the tracks entering the public domain.

"Under European copyright law, copyright lasts between 50 and 70 years, but only to recordings that have been released within 50 years of them being made.

"Sony released the collection of Dylan’s demos shortly before the end of 2012, a half-century after they were originally recorded."

There are Beatles studio recordings about to fall into the same trap. While there is talk of changes to the law, it has yet to happen, and Dylan has decided to react. Could The Beatles be forced to do the same? While there are a good chunk of '63 studio outtakes out there, they're far from the complete. The "Please Please Me" album outtakes become public domain on 12 February. Dylan saw only one response after seeing a bunch of debatable live/home recordings from '62/'63 recordings gaining legitimate enough to be stocked by Amazon and HMV. Are The Beatles about to act to avoid the same?

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
11 January 2013
5.50pm
meanmistermustard
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Recordings of the Decca Audition and Star Club, Germany are on iTunes, maybe this answers the question of how and why they are on there. Wouldnt explain the inclusion of Love Me Do and P.S. I Love You tho.

I'd be surprised to see any outtakes from Apple appearing officially before February 11 2013 as its only a month away and you'd think there would be a huge promotion campaign however there was about a months notice before Live At The BBC in '94 if i recall correctly. There was also little notice before the itunes exclusive collection 'Tomorrow Never Knows' but thats little more than a playlist.

Its certainly a good question. Wasnt there some law in Italy that live recordings or concerts could be released after 20 years and resulted in live beatles concerts being released by bootleggers, i think that law was changed pronto. (I may have made all that up).

 

One thing that comes to mind is do they have legal permission to access the recordings that Apple and/or EMI have under the tightest security, if not then all they can issue is what we already have.

It also wouldnt surprise me if Apple did release a limited number of 5 that were magically bought up by Apple employees 3 seconds after they go on sale.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
11 January 2013
6.02pm
Ron Nasty
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You're right about European law being changed after a load of concerts and BBC recordings gained semi-legitimate release in the late-80s, early-90s.

I'm not suggesting we're about to see a full-scale release, but asking whether they could do something like Dylan's release of 100 copies, which he seems to have been told is enough to prevent the material included falling into public domain, and wondering how long before bootleggers and YouTube got their hands on things like the second take of Twist And Shout?

It seems to me that to count, the Dylan set had to be publicly available across Europe, which was why they were distributed across independent stores in several countries. Which would preclude 5 copies being bought by Apple employees. It has to be available to the general public.

The Dylan set obviously did make it to the general public as copies are already on eBay. And having a huge collection of Dylan outtakes myself, I can say that the set does not include only what's already been bootlegged.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
11 January 2013
9.27pm
meanmistermustard
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Wogblog has written in its latest post

There's apparently a hole in the copyright protection in Europe. It used to be 50 years, but will be extended to 70 years. But the extension will not be validated until November. Meanwhile, recordings from 1962 are out of copyright protection.
And first to seemingly capitalise on that fact is a company called Digital Remasterings, which has included ‘Love Me Do’ on a compilation of
very early Beatles recordings, mainly live recordings from their time working at Hamburg’s Star Club. Meanwhile a company called Pristine Classical, which specialises in releasing remastered versions of out-of-copyright classical recordings, has issued its own remaster of ‘Love Me Do’, seemingly in protest at the copyright extension.

So…Digital Remasterings seems to think that the Star Club tape is now legal to release. But there's a snag: Copyrights start the year of release, not the year of recording, and the 1962 Star Club recordings weren't released until 1977.

You can get Love Me Do and PS I Love You for 59p now on itunes. I doubt Apple will be too chuffed at this and will be trying to get it sorted. The more labels realise you can put a couple of Beatle tunes on a compilation for free the more we'll see popping up. Sends shivers of sadness down my spine that their music is going to be utilised in this manner. There are already a few labels that have issued the Hamburg live recordings alongwith Love Me Do and PS I Love You.

 

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
11 January 2013
11.57pm
Ron Nasty
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Music Week has commented on the copyright situation, should probably just do a link but I think it's too important to the position:

 

'New' Beatles and Bob Dylan releases appear as copyright term

debate descends into farce

     The Beatles' classic recording of 1962 single Love Me Do has – debatably – slipped into the public domain in the EU.

     That means any record label in the land could theoretically now reissue the track and original B-side P.S. I Love You as a 'new' release without paying performance royalties to the band.

     Classical reissue specialist Pristine Classical has already taken advantage: it is now offering a remastered version of Love Me Do as a single track. One word: scamps.

     Under traditional EU law, the copyright on recorded music in Europe runs out after 50 years since a track or album was first released.

     That's in contrast to the songwriter's publishing copyright, which lasts until 70 years after a composer dies.

     To the jubilation of the record industry, Brussels last year agreed to extend the recordings copyright term from 50 to 70 years. Only problem is, that law hasn't yet come into effect – it will be rubber stamped in the UK some time before November.

     As such, the owners of Love Me Do's recording copyright for the past 50 years – the band plus label EMI (last year acquired by Universal) – find themselves watching a song they fully owned just weeks ago now being exploited by third parties. 

     However, Universal/EMI still fully owns distribution of the song as part of the Beatles' debut LP, Please Please Me and Greatest Hits, 1.

     In another twist, the EU Term Extension conditions include a 'use it or lose it' clause for anything recorded before 1963.

     That means that if they want to stop pre-1963 recordings slipping into public domain, labels and performers must prove they were still invested in bringing them to new audiences in the decades that followed.

     Sony Music has already taken exactly that step for one of its artists whose recordings copyrights are beginning to expire: Bob Dylan.

     Sony's very limited, 100-copy release of the 50th Anniversary Collection box set, released late last year,  includes 86 unreleased Dylan tracks dating back to 1962 and 1963 – or, you've guessed it, 50 and 51 years.

     "This isn't a scheme to make money," a Sony Music source reassured Rolling Stone. "The copyright law in Europe was recently extended from 50 to 70 years for everything recorded in 1963 and beyond. With everything before that, there's a new 'Use It or Lose It' provision. It basically said, 'If you haven't used the recordings in the first 50 years, you aren't going to get any more."

     They added; ""The whole point of copyrighting this stuff is that we intend to do something with it at some point in the future."

I think the interesting part is Sony's reasoning. They do not talk as if 1963 is a concrete point, but as if their understanding is that the 50 years will roll on. "If you haven't used the recordings in the first 50 years, you aren't going to get any more." And having seen the tracklisting for the Dylan set, and having a very good collection of unreleased Dylan, there's lots not yet in the hands of collectors. They seem to have included, albeit in a very limited way, every take from the Freewheelin' sessions that exists and is in their vaults.

The interesting part of the law will be what that 50 years to "Use It or Lose It" provision actually means.

 

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
12 January 2013
1.29am
meanmistermustard
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What does "However, Universal/EMI still fully owns distribution of the song as part of the Beatles' debut LP, Please Please Me and Greatest Hits, 1." mean (they are talking about Love Me Do)?

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
12 January 2013
3.35pm
Ron Nasty
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Guessing here, but I would say they are referring to two different things. One) They still retain protection over a track that has slipped into public domain as it appears in later packages. Two) The 2009 remasters of Love Me Do and PS I Love You cannot be said to be in public domain because they are copyright 2009, which is why it is said that Pristine Classical created their own new remaster, which they took from the 1962 single.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
12 January 2013
6.07pm
meanmistermustard
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I dont get it. EMI own the distribution of the song but other companies can flog it freely? So whats the point of owning it? Surely Love Me Do 1962 is the same recording as Love Me Do 2009 so where is the difference between releasing one or the other? Cant there just be a law saying either you own this or you dont or is that what we have? Anyone got the time to explain this so a 1 year old can understand it preferably with lots of diagrams and wavy lines.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
12 January 2013
6.51pm
Ron Nasty
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The 2009 remaster has a completely new copyright because the 2009 remaster did not exist before 2009. So nobody can pull EMI/Apple's remaster straight off any record and release it. It is a new copyright. Someone can take the 1962 single, and the master it was made from, create their own remaster, and release that.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
12 January 2013
8.01pm
meanmistermustard
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Oh ok thanks. Surely Universal, EMI and other labels will be looking to get these laws changed as both these artists music has been very tightly marketed over the years. Seems a long time to get the law signed as well, whats taking so long as it was approved last year.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
12 January 2013
9.14pm
Ron Nasty
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The EU is a confusing thing. They have been arguing about this for about a decade, seeing what was on the horizon, but only agreed to something during 2012. The change to copyright law was agreed at a governmental level, not a EU parliamentary level. Therefore, to become Europe-wide law, it has to be passed by the parliaments of each of the 27 member states. When the 30 to 50 year change was made, that you referred to earlier, that was done by the EU parliament to bring in a standard across the union. Rather than a standardisation, this is a rewriting of the copyright law. And what happens if one parliament rejects it?

The most important part of which is what does the 50 year "Use It or Lose It" provision mean. Because, surely, while it refers to 1963 this year, next year it refers to 1964. The Dylan collection is subtitled, "The Copyright Extension Collection Vol. 1", which seems to indicate Sony expect to be doing similar exercises as the years roll on.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
12 January 2013
11.29pm
meanmistermustard
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I guess that 'use or lose' rule is a good thing for fans as on the face of it ensures material is not just stuck in a cupboard somewhere but do record companies have to give access to the unreleased material? Can i phone up EMI quoting this new law and be granted free reign with Take 2 of Twist And Shout or will they hang up and charge me for wasting their time?

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
12 January 2013
11.50pm
Ron Nasty
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I think, if the Dylan is anything to go by, they have to make a release to give it copyright protection, but once it falls into public hands, is it really not going to be bootlegged. The example I would give is Dylan's Mixed Up Confusion. Four versions have been readily available for those into rare recordings, takes 5, 6, 11 & 14 (14 being the official release). The Dylan release contains takes 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 & 11. Of these seven takes I only have 5, 6 & 11, despite being a Dylan collector. Dylan has released four takes that have not been available among those who hunt for these things. I am sure they will be within the next few weeks. A copy of this box set sold on eBay yesterday for £1,500+. How long before someone makes use of the new stuff?

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
13 January 2013
12.04am
meanmistermustard
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It depends who bought the copies. There are still a lot of collectors who keep things for their own used and only play them when 19ft underground and alone or just to a very select band of friends.

So if Dylan hadnt released the takes and they are under strict lock and key open to only Bob and the Universal executives who dont want to let them out how do the other cheapo record companies get access to the tapes? Thats the bit i dont get. Say i had take 10 of a song never released before and it was 50 years old and i had it locked in a vault of which no one knew the location how do they get take 10 even if its out of copyright?  Do i have to give them it?

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
13 January 2013
12.26am
Ron Nasty
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No you don't. But I think 1 or 2 copies of the Dylan set will now be in the hands of those who bootleg. Those who want the fans to hear all there is. They're are lots of those out there. I wouldn't want any song just for myself, I would want as many others to hear it as possible to see whether they think it as good as me. If you had, for instance, Twist And Shout take 2, would you keep it to yourself? I know I wouldn't.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
13 January 2013
12.22pm
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So if i understand it right since they dont have any requirement to hand them over and Apple dont want us to hear any of the stuff in the vaults at this moment they wont be panicing over this law. Life goes on.

A number of Beatles outtakes, acetates, demos and live shows have been auctioned in the past that have never surfaced. Some have been bought by Apple and the like but hardcore collectors as well who have hidden them in metal boxes 6 ft under; they get more pleasure knowing they have something so rare than playing them.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
14 January 2013
4.06am
Ron Nasty
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I think the reaction of Sony and Dylan shows something different. They released an album of unreleased, and in several instances unbootlegged material to prevent it falling into public domain, knowing that they could not release it in a few years and get a copyright on it then because its recording date(s) would mean it was automatically public domain. They'd be able to copyright the mix, they'd be able to copyright the package, but they would not be able to copyright the actual recording. The Beatles find themselves in exactly the same situation. Sony and Dylan looked at the law, and decided the only way to protect their copyright on recordings butting the  50-year law was to make the limited edition release.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
4 March 2014
6.18pm
meanmistermustard
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Colour me lost as a new Star Club set is out, all remastered and neatly packaged (reported by Wogblog, the albums website). 

So these are unofficial bootlegs and open to Apple suing the company's butt off right since they were released in 1977 (not by The Beatles but by Lingasong, The Beatles won the rights to the tapes after George gave evidence in court in May 1998 (details about the case and George's appearance can be read here, scroll down to the entries Tuesday 5th May > Friday 8th May 1998)). Right? Or am i missing something?

 

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
4 March 2014
6.53pm
Ron Nasty
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Not missing a thing, mmm. However professionally they're promoting it, it's nothing more than a bootleg. If you sit through their promo video for it, among their "upcoming releases" at the end, they list the usual bootlegged shows, Hollywood Bowl, Washington, Paris, Tokyo, etc., and just to show they're definitely bootleggers - The Get Back Nagra Trap Remasters. While some grey market labels might risk a few of these – after all you can get things like Washington and Tokyo on grey market DVDs, but none would dare Get Back.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
4 March 2014
7.09pm
meanmistermustard
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I never bothered to watch the video, too busy wondering how you remaster crap sound to make it good sound. What is a Nagra Trap? Is that what Apple are going to be calling it when they release them, well in 2018. Won't the Get Back material which hasn't been officially released become Public Domain in 2018. Maybe we will get some official release of the best material then.

Thanks mja.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
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