Artists including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Tom Waits and Loretta Lynn are among the artists who have filed papers to take back ownership of recordings from 1978 under US ‘termination rights’ laws. The New York Times has a big feature about the issue, which has been bubbling away for some time now. In short: artists believe they are entitled to regain control of works created 35 years ago if they apply at least two years in advance. 1978 is the first year covered by the legislation, so artists have been applying this year. “In terms of all those big acts you name, the recording industry has made a gazillion dollars on those masters, more than the artists have,” says Don Henley of The Eagles and the Recording Artists Coalition. “So there’s an issue of parity here, of fairness. This is a bone of contention, and it’s going to get more contentious in the next couple of years.” However, the RIAA is set for battle, claiming that “the termination right doesn’t apply to most sound recordings” on the grounds that they were made as ‘works for hire’. The issue has been a slow burner, but its importance cannot be underestimated: not just for labels and artists, but for the music services and stores who license these works.
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