New US Report says pre-1972 sound recordings should be ‘Federalized’

February 2012

Record industry, Internet


A Report from the US Copyright Office has recommended that all pre-1972 sound recordings become subject to US Federal Law. They are currently protected by state law. The move, if implemented, would open up a number of new opportunities, not least in making life easier for libraries and archivists who preserve old recordings.  Commercial use remains an issue though: with internet radio stations though, the move would expose the stations to paying royalties for using pre-1972 sound recordings to SoundExchange who currently do not (or cannot) always collect under state laws for the public performance right. The Copyright Office Report makes no comment on the position that no royalty is due to SoundExchange for US works from pre 1972 (unlike foreign works which are covered), but if pre-1972 works were to be covered, they would then need to be registered at the US Copyright Office. Some suggest that ‘Federalization’ of pre-1972 recordings would clear up all ambiguities and actually make it easier for internet based radio companies and streaming services to licence works. Terrestrial stations are exempt from performance royalties in the USA and there is no equivalent PPL ‘needletime’ payment for soudrecording use as applies in the UK.

The Report also expresses some sympathy with the position taken against the DCMA ‘safe harbour’ provisions by content owners, saying the law should be re-examined and clarified after the MP3Songs v EMI and Universal v Veoh cases.

More on this at

No Comments

Comments are closed.