Entries Matching: Copyright Reclamation

Copyright Reclamation and Term Extensions: Holiday Edition

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If artists don’t follow the technical procedures to reclaim their copyrights correctly, copyright term extensions just turn into a windfall for their middlemen.


In keeping with the holiday spirit, the most recent court ruling on copyright reclamation rules revolves around the publishing rights for “Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town.” Unfortunately for the composers’ heirs, a mistake in attempting to reclaim their copyright back in 1981 means that the economic windfall of 20 extra years of copyright protection will go straight to the song’s publisher.

Copyright law is meant to benefit artists as a means of ultimately serving the public good. Unfortunately, this case shows how the system still sometimes fails on both counts. Copyright term extensions have kept Santa Claus Is Coming To Town out of the public domain for almost 80 years now, while a procedural error has also kept the copyright out of the hands of the composers’ heirs. As a result, the middleman (here, EMI’s publishing arm) enjoys a windfall of profits while the composers and the public both lose out.

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