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Beach Boys 1964 rarities released to reboot copyright, what about The Beatles?

By | Published on Monday 15 December 2014

Abbey Road

Universal Music is running out of time if it wants to reboot the copyright in any unreleased Beatles recordings from 1964.

This time last year the major, in cahoots with Beatles company Apple Corps, suddenly released ‘The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963’ onto iTunes. It transpired that the release was less about giving fans a pre-Christmas rarities treat, and more about extending the copyright in those recordings.

As much previously reported, the copyright term for released sound recordings in Europe was extended from 50 to 70 years last year, meaning the lucrative Beatles catalogue – getting perilously close to going ‘public domain’ in Europe – was given an extra 20 years of copyright protection.

Though the copyright in unreleased works was not affected by the change in European law, and is still 50 years after the recording is made. Therefore the copyright in any unreleased sound recordings made in 1964 will expire on 1 Jan next year, unless said recordings are released between now and then. If they are released (or even just aired in public), then the copyright is actually rebooted, so they will get 70 years copyright protection from this year onwards.

Therefore the aim of ‘The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963’ was to reboot the copyright in a bunch of sound recordings whose copyright protection was about to expire. It was widely expected that a 1964 edition would follow, rebooting the copyright in any unreleased recordings that the Fab Four made that year, though it’s yet to surface, and the official line is that no such album is incoming. Despite that, a surprise arrival over the Christmas period would not, really, be much of a surprise.

Meanwhile, Sony Music is set to put out a bunch of Bob Dylan rarities from 1964 to likewise reboot the European copyright in those recordings, the company and he having done the same in 2013 (actually before The Beatles got in on the act). Also jumping on the copyright reboot bandwagon are The Beach Boys, who recently released a number of previously unheard tracks, including outtakes, live recordings and some BBC sessions – all rarities dating from 1964, naturally.

Whether any more re-boot-legs can be expected between now and the year’s end, well, we’ll keep our ears to the ground.