Last week, I wrote about the Music Modernization Act, a piece of legislation that is currently working its way through Congress and looks increasingly like it might pass. As you may recall, one part of that bill is controversial because of how it treats pre-1972 sound recordings. That part, called the CLASSICS Act, would grant a digital performance right extending all the way to 2067 for these sound recordings, but otherwise would leave them outside of federal copyright law. In doing this, the bill a bit strange, because it seems designed simply to compensate authors of older works in a way that is atypical for copyright law. Normally, we think about copyright giving authors the exclusive right to earn money from their works as a way to encourage them to create. Since these older works already exist, the CLASSICS Act doesn’t really encourage anything.
Well, yesterday (May 23, 2018) Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon introduced a new bill that offers a much better solution for pre-1972 sound recordings than the CLASSICS Act. This bill, the Accessibility for Curators, Creators, Educators, Scholars, and Society to Recordings Act (or ACCESS to Recordings Act, because seemingly all laws need to have silly acronyms — see the USA PATRIOT Act), this bill would bring pre-1972 sound recordings in line with other pre-1972 works. As such, sound recordings would have the same federal protections as other works, and would also have the same copyright duration — 95 years after first publication for most sound recordings.
So, as I said before, we’ll watch and see what happens.