Intellectual Property | Getting Around the Copyright Laws

The Beatles are to release a 59-track, digital-only album of rare and unheard recordings to debut on iTunes on 17th December in a bid to prolong the copyright protection of the songs.

The compilation includes four different takes on She Loves You, five of A Taste of Honey and various sessions they recorded for the BBC that have never before been released.

The copyright on the recordings was due to expire at the end of December 2013 but releasing the compilation of studio outtakes and songs recorded live for the BBC to iTunes allows copyright protection to remain in effect for longer.

If the songs had not been released before the end of the year, copyright protection would have run out and other record labels could theoretically release them and profit from them.

The newly released songs fall under sound recordings copyright, i.e. the specific version of that song that was recorded by certain musicians at a certain time and place. The songs themselves fall under songwriters’ copyright and remain the copyright of the composer for 70 years after their death.

Up until recently, copyright in sound recordings was only protected for 50 years. However, after a recent EU ruling this has been extended to 70 years, but only if the songs have been officially released. Making this collection of previously unreleased Beatles’ songs available now means the recordings will be protected until 2033.

The Beatles’ 1962 debut single, Love Me Do, arguably slipped out of copyright last year, before the EU’s copyright extension was signed into law allowing at least one record company to issue a “remastered” version of the song, although that has since been deleted.

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Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London