Labels Lashing as Copyrights Go Home to their Creators in 2013

by Kitty Savage

In the 1970’s, an act was passed to restore copyrights to their creators after 35 years. This meant that a major record label, or owners of copyrighted collections of creative works by others, would be forced to give over the rights and royalties to the original songwriters by the year 2013 at the earliest. Each artist who wishes to restore their rights is required to submit a termination notice at least two years, and maximum of ten years in advance.

Of course in the 1970’s the lawmakers were not predicting that the digital age would turn the recording industry on its head and shake out most of their milk money. Nowadays, as new artists struggle more and more to make the big splash of previous stars, record companies profit from older popular recordings’ royalties, such as The Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” which brings in around a million bucks of royalties each year, meanwhile the songwriter receives amounts equal to a school teacher’s salary. This in particular is one conflict that has been brought to the spotlight, as record labels scour desperately to find a loophole in reserving their rights.

They did find an ambiguous exception in the act- that works made for hire, such as a jingle for an ad, do not qualify as those creative works are owned by the company who funded and elicited them. That is where things get sticky. Record labels are now arguing that artists who signed record deals were artists for hire, and that anything created by the artists should remain the property of the record labels. They went as far as to propose a bill called “The Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act” which subversively included a passage inferring that artists would not have the right to reclaim their works. However, the clever little bastards were bagged, and the passage never went through. In fact, unless Congress does directly change this law, artists have “inalienable” rights to reclaim their music under the set provisions, even if their record contract stated otherwise.

I thought it would be fun to check out the first round of qualifying funk works from 1978, when the law was first passed. Below is the list of albums that the creators would need to be submitting their termination notice for this year, or risk losing the future royalties of their legendary tunes.

Bootsy’s Rubber Band- Bootsy? Player of the Year
Little Feat- Waiting for Columbus
Average White Band- Warmer Communications
Rick James- Come Get It!
Prince- For You
The Isley Brothers- Showdown
Commodores- Natural High
KC & The Sunshine Band- Who Do You Love
Roberta Flack- Roberta Flack
Curtis Mayfield- Do It All Night
Ohio Players- Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee
Ashford & Simpson- Is It Still Good To Ya
Rose Royce- Rose Royce III: Strikes Again!
Village People- Cruisin’
Funkadelic- One Nation Under A Groove
Tine Turner- Rough
Gloria Gaynor- Love Tracks
The Jacksons- Destiny
Parliament- Motor Booty Affair
Chaka- Chaka Khan (debut album)
The Pointer Sisters- Energy
Kool & The Gang- Everybody’s Dancin’
The Brides of Funkenstein – Funk or Walk
Parlet – Pleasure Principle
Quincy Jones- Sounds…and Stuff Like That!
Al Green- Truth & Time
Bee Gees- Saturday Night Fever

Meanwhile, Armen Boladian has been in pursuit of sueing hundreds of artists for illegally sampling George Clinton’s music, and continues to rob and target samplers. However, on the premise of forged record contract documents, he has been revealed as a complete thief and liar, as as George puts it, Armen is a “strong contender for the most hated person in the music business.”
Copyright Trolling: How to Rip Off George Clinton and Ruin Hip Hop for Fun and Profit

Read more about this issue on George’s blog.

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