Few in New York will disagree that the rise in popularity of streaming music websites and apps has created confusion and conflict in the realm of copyrights. While the U.S. Congress works to bring copyright law into the modern age, it also seeks to add protections for some musical works that, because of a cutoff point in previous laws, have not fallen under the governance of the laws. This means that the creators of many of those works made before 1972 have had no recourse for protecting their work from indiscriminate use without compensation.
However, a new law called Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service and Important Contributions to Society is currently under debate. CLASSICS seeks to provide licensing rights to the owners of music before that cutoff point, allowing them to receive fees from music streaming and other sources just as later works do. The CLASSICS Act is still under consideration and is being met with some resistance by groups who feel it will only raise additional complications.
First, the law offers copyright coverage without requiring registration, a factor that will make it more difficult to determine which songs are in the public domain. Additionally, the proposed copyright expiration for pre-1972 songs is 2067 regardless of the amount of time that has passed since a work’s creation. Therefore, songs published in 1927 will carry about 140 years of protection under the new law.
Songs that delay entering the public domain lose the opportunity for more widespread exposure. Another generation of consumers may pass before some obscure treasures can be used without fear of copyright infringement. Because of the complexities and constant evolution of copyright law, those in New York who have concerns about the protection of their own material would do well to seek the advice of an attorney. A legal professional who is dedicated to intellectual property law can provide guidance.