Prince's WMG Deal Stems From U.S. Laws That Support Master Recording Copyright Termination - hypebot

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Nicholas Hrenchuk

Esq. Collins:

As the window to exercise reversion rights quickly descends upon the music world, I find this post to be both timely and informative, while providing a backdrop against which we can explore the potential future for artists who have reclaimed their copyrights. As a graduating senior receiving a degree in music industry who will be working at a music publisher upon graduation, this topic is especially poignant, as the livelihood of the music publisher is based upon the exploitation of a rich and copious catalog. Personally, I found the explanation of the clause to be well done, though I might suggest the addition of a visual to better illustrate the window in which the artist must send notice to the copyright holder and file with the U.S. Copyright Office, which can be a tricky concept, even for those familiar with it. And while the issue regarding "work for hire" will likely be caught up in the court system for some time, what facts or points do you suggest will allow the courts to find in favor of the artists, establishing that such recordings were not made under a sort of "work for hire" agreement? Could you see the decision of this landmark case having a further effect on works created by composers for films and television that are customarily considered "works for hire"? In the interim, I do agree that the companies who control the rights currently should prepare for aggressive negotiation and agreement drafting to protect their interests in the recordings, and personally recommend the hiring of additional legal personnel to manage the notice and ensure that no copyrights slip through the cracks due to carelessness.

As the window for terminating copyright control opens and closes, I recognize the chance of an artist being unaware of such a clause as too great. In cases similar to that of Sly Stone (of Sly & The Family Stone), many musicians are not privy to the nuisances of copyright and contract law, and may fail to capitalize on this legal opportunity to regain assets and potentially boost income. Do you believe that this lack of understanding on the part of the musicians might open the market for small consulting groups to operate and provide guidance to these artists who are particularly unaware? As total income for the music industry in the U.S. decreases, such boutique firms providing a unique and specialized service to artists could be profitable and stable enterprises as terminations are only just beginning. While it is easier to manage an artist’s catalog on their own given the recent rise in digital formats and various online companies, it should be noted that being one’s own publisher could be an arduous task, especially when it comes to tracking and collecting the income deserved. Therefore, I would urge artists who do not have a catalog which can essentially “sell itself,” based on its contents or its composer, to seriously consider entering into negotiations with the current copyright holders, who can pay an additional advance and market the catalog with its copious resources. Overall, this article was very accessible and made a great connection between the abstract law and the physical impact it has on artists like Prince, and would be highly valuable to those artists unfamiliar with the money they might be leaving on the table.

Nicholas Hrenchuk

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