Schwartz & Ponterio, PLLC holds lawyers responsible for legal malpractice.

What is the importance of a master recording?

On Behalf of | Oct 1, 2021 | Intellectual Property

When a musician creates a new piece, they should be paid for it whenever it’s played or used. Sometimes, artists lose their right to their own intellectual property due to past contracts or other legal issues.

Buying back those rights, or obtaining them through other means, is an important step for these artists. For example, Anita Baker recently announced that she had obtained the IP rights to all of her albums released by Elektra Records in the 1980s and 90s. Now, she owns the master recordings, which are the official recordings of the song and the source of all future copies.

Why is it important to own a master recording?

When a musician owns a master recording, they control the rights to the song. Usually, new artists are asked to give up the rights to their master recordings. This is done in exchange for the label’s resources as well as for the marketing and distribution that the label will do for the artist.

The label then profits from the sale of the music. The label may sell the music for use on TV, during advertisements and in other circumstances.

In the meantime, artists usually receive royalties or may obtain payment when they perform. Maintaining control of this IP allows artists to make more money and have more control over their property.

How soon can you get the rights to your master recording?

The 1976 Copyright Revision Act allows people to seek the ownership of their master recordings after 35 years if the music was created after 1978. That doesn’t mean that it is simple to get those rights, because the fact is that the record labels won’t want to give them up.

There are different ways that artists can get their recordings, and waiting for that 35-year timeline to pass is just one. If you are seeking out your master recordings, you may want to discuss your original contract and to look into options for buying it back or obtaining it through other means. Your work should be protected, and you should profit from it. In the future, having the right legal support could help you negotiate a better contract where you retain ownership of your masters from the start.