Sony recently released a new Bob Dylan album, entitled The 50th Anniversary Collection: The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol. 1. The reason behind the album is exactly as the name suggests. Sony had to release the music in order to protect its copyright and prevent the songs from entering the public domain.
The European Union’s copyright laws are slated to change in 2014. Under the new system, protection for sound recordings will be extended from 50 to 70 years for music recorded since 1963. However, under a “lose it or use it” provision, copyright holders cannot take advantage of the new system unless the music was published before the existing 50-year term expired.
As The New York Times reports, Sony rushed to release 100 copies of a four-CD set containing previously unreleased music from its Bob Dylan catalog. It includes studio outtakes and live recordings from 1962 and 1963. If the recordings were not published, they would have entered the public domain.
Sony has stated that it plans to make further use of the music at a later date. Until then, the rare CDS have become a hot commodity; they are selling for $1,500 on auction sites and appearing on illegal music sharing sites.
While the record industry has not responded to the new EU copyright laws with mass publications of unreleased music, Sony is not alone. Universal, which holds the copyrights to the Motown catalog, also recently released a compilation of music, entitled Motown Unreleased 1962.
For music buffs hopeful for similar releases in the United States, it is unlikely to be necessary. Under U.S. copyright laws, recordings made since 1978 are protected until 70 years after the death of the author.