Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Music Modernization Act of 2018 with substantial revisions to protect and foster the public domain for sound recordings. Earlier versions of the bill contained a version of the CLASSICS Act that would have kept recordings from as early as 1923 out of public hands until 2067.
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee marked up Senator Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) bill, “The Music Modernization Act,” (S.R. 2334) to update the music licensing marketplace. Public Knowledge urges Congress to continue to fix and improve the Music Modernization Act to rationalize the copyright system and protect historians, libraries, archivists, and consumers.
Today, Senator Wyden (D-OR) introduced the ACCESS to Recordings Act, which would extend federal copyright protection to pre-1972 sound recordings, and in doing so, harmonize them with their modern counterparts. Public Knowledge applauds Senator Wyden for acknowledging the injustices posed by the current system and fighting to rationalize our copyright law.
Yesterday, more than 40 intellectual property law professors sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and all members of the committee, urging them to reject or, at a minimum, amend the CLASSICS Act to ensure that its provisions are in line with existing federal copyright law.
Sound recordings made prior to 1972 don’t enjoy federal copyright protection. There’s a thorny legal and legislative history behind this, but the end result is that these recordings are only protected under state law. Federal copyright has evolved, with new rights, limitations, and user protections applied to copyrighted works -- but not to pre-’72 recordings. And as the internet became ubiquitous, consumption of these works began to cross state lines, further muddying the waters.