Are remasters of early recordings "re-protected" by copyright?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by toonzcat, Jul 10, 2006.

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  1. toonzcat

    toonzcat New Member Thread Starter

    I was always curious about whether or not a remaster of a recording such as something early by Charlie Parker gets "re-protected" under copyright laws as a new recording? Does that take the remastered version out of the public domain? Can the earlier issue enter the public domain and exist in tandem?

    On a different note, I have heard a rumor that states that hip hop reissues of albums from before 1992 (when the new sampling laws went into effect) that are newly re-released can be sued as a new recording for sample infringement.

    Just curious where all this stands.
  2. Mike Dow

    Mike Dow I kind of like the music

    Bangor, Maine
    Welcome to the forum toonzcat!
  3. Claude

    Claude Senior Member

    The remastering has no effect on the copyright duration of a sound recording. A recording is protected for 50 years (EU) or 70 years (US) after the date of recording, irrespective if is remastered or not.

    The issue of remastering is not dealt with by the law but only by jurisprudence. There has been a court decision in the UK stating that the restoration of old public domain photographies is not worthy of copyright protection. So the restored photographies can be copied by anyone just like the original non-restored photos. This could be applied by analogy to remastering of sound recordings.

    Maybe if someone used DCC or MFSL remasterings of public domain material for his own CD releases, he could be challenged with unfair competition law. An important problem in such a trial would be to prove that a certain remastering was copied, when it is not so obvious.
  4. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Senior Member

    I don't pretend to know the definitive answer to this question, but there has been some speculation in the most recent Beatles catalog remaster thread that a remix may start the copyright clock running again.
  5. jdmack

    jdmack Forum Resident

    Silver Spring, MD
    I believe that the copyright on the particular remaster or remix is protected from the time of its creation, but it does not reset the protection on the original sound recording. In other words, there will come a day when anyone can take a 1963 pressing of "Please Please Me" and reproduce it without paying anyone anything, but they would have to wait 24 more years to reproduce the CD.

    But I'm not a lawyer, so I could be wrong.

    J. D.
  6. Claude

    Claude Senior Member

    Are we talking about a remix or a remaster?

    A remix of a recording, with newly recorded elements or with a significantly different sound due to a new mix of the old tracks, can be considered as a new artistic work, and thus be protected on it's own.

    That is a question of jurisprudence. I don't think a stereo remix of a song that was previously only available in mono would qualify for new copyright protection.

    On the other hand, a remaster of an old recording will not be considered as a new artistic work protected by copyright, irrespective of the technical merits of the remastering work.

    Anyway, the current trend is towards an endless copyright protection, so all this won't matter anymore. US copyright protection had been extended by 20 years in 1998, and now in the EU lobbies are pushing hard to get an extension too (95 years on recordings, instead of 50), to avoid that the most lucrative 1960's recordings enter the public domain.
  7. Paul Grayson

    Paul Grayson New Member

    Even so, songwriters copyrights last longer that then mechanical ones (70 years after death in the EU), so you still have to pay publishing rights once the mechanical copyrights expire.

    Personally I don't think the EU will extend mechanical copyrights further. 50 years is too long as it is.
  8. Claude

    Claude Senior Member

    The EU Commission has just announced it is studying the issue and may come up with a proposal to extend the copyright on sound recordings to 95 years. Nothing is decided yet, but in the past years, intellectual property legislation has constantly been changed in favor of the rightholders.
  9. toonzcat

    toonzcat New Member Thread Starter

    Interesting. Are those Proper Jazz boxes using remastered material in Europe?
  10. TeddyB

    TeddyB Senior Member

    As for the sampling question, I don't know what the legalities actually are, or where the courts will come down on the issue, but I have a very close friend who has resisted attempts by his record label to remaster several successful albums released by his band previous to 1992 in which samples were not cleared. These albums are generally still available in their original CD release form but my friend is concerned that either newly released versions or a new box set that the label has been lobbying for will bring legal action, and to retroactively clear all the samples would be financially prohibitive. On the other hand, the Beastie Boys have used tracks from Paul's Boutique on several complilations, though I don't believe the complete album has been rereleased as a remaster or deluxe version.
  11. David Powell

    David Powell Well-Known Member

    Atlanta, Ga.
    To avoid confusion, you have to remember that the copyright for the composition itself is separate from the mechanical copyright obtained each time the song is recorded.
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