Way back in 1999 the music labels attempted to sneak in legislation which would have made all music mere works for hire. People who create copyrighted content for hire usually come from the literary realm. Think of those cheap and plentiful pulp fiction books or those romantic novels for lonely housewives. Publishers of those books hire out the writing under a general plot. To put it another way, the plot is already written, so all the writer has to do is fill in the blanks.
Most of the background music you hear on TV and in advertisements is work for hire. The producer orders a song with a funky uptempo bass line and the song writer regurgitates it.
But I find it hard to believe that Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music was somehow created at the direction of some drone at the label.
Anyway, the legislation did not pass because the musicians raised a huge stink about it and the labels backed down. People who create copyrighted content for hire do not enjoy all of the rights associated with copyright. But I still did not fully understand why the labels attempted what they did.
Now it’s all clear. Wired has a great write up about it. In a nutshell, the Copyright Act of 1976 gives song writers and musicians the chance to get their copyrights back. And the sand is running out. This will start happening in 2013.
Suddenly the labels won’t have their massive back catalog of music, which earns a lot of money not only in direct sales to consumers, but in licensing for movies and TV. So new music is not selling. They won’t have any successful old music to sell. The labels will be mere shells of their former selves.
And I just love how the labels are scheming to get around this law. Remember last week when a company called BlueBeat.com claimed copyrights to all of the Beatles music and started selling it online? BlueBeat.com claimed that had the copyrights to the music because it rerecorded the songs which gave them new copyrights. They were even allowed to register those new copyrights with the feds.
Of course everyone laughed at the idea that someone could obtain copyrights over the entire Beatles catalog merely by rerecording them.
However, the joke might be on the musicians, because that’s the label’s plan. The labels are claiming that the new digital remixes deserve new copyrights. So even if the Eagles gets the copyrights back on their original analog recordings, the labels will still hold the copyright to the new digital recording. The courts will be sorting this crap out for decades.