Recently my law partner, Stephanie Taylor, and I were interviewed by Jesse Goldberg, on his show, “Mind Your Own Music Business.” Following up on an article that I wrote for The Tennessean, we discussed copyright recapture rights.
This is a very important issue right now for any authors and heirs of original works who transferred rights in their copyrights in the past under the 1976 Copyright Act, which affects works first published on or after January 1, 1978. Thirty-five years after the initial transfer, a five year window opens up during which the authors/heirs may provide notice of their desire to recapture the copyrights that they previously transferred. To make it more complicated, authors and heirs must provide notice of their intent to recapture no earlier than ten, and no later than two, years prior to the notice being effective. Thus, for those authors wishing to recapture copyrights that they transferred in 1978 (for which the five year window opens up in 2013 and runs through 2018), the minimum two-year notice prior to the five year window is right now in 2011.
We discussed a variety of issues, many of which have not made their way to the courts yet, but surely which will require litigation. These included whether sound recordings are considered works for hire, and thus not eligible for recapturing; whether session musicians, producers, sound engineers, and others might qualify as authors; and the gap grant problem for those authors who entered into contracts transferring their copyrights pre-1978, but who didn’t create or publish their works until after January 1, 1978. We also discussed how Nashville courts likely will be called on to decide some of these significant legal issues in the coming years, given Nashville’s importance in the entertainment, publishing, and technology industries.
As soon as the show airs on TV and is up on the web, I'll update this post and provide links.