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Henley on American industry’s “copyright timebomb”

By | Published on Thursday 8 September 2011


Rolling Stone has spoken to Eagles man Don Henley about that previously reported looming battle in the US over a clause in the country’s Copyright Act which could result in the ownership of sound recordings reverting to artists after 35 years.

The impact of the late 1970s copyright legislation could be felt in 2013 when, in theory, recording artists could reclaim ownership of albums they recorded 35 years ago for the first time, using that fact to renegotiate old record contracts, or to ally themselves with different record companies, or to go it alone. I say “could be felt” because the record companies insist the 35 year reclaim clause in US copyright law does not apply to sound recordings made under traditional record contracts. A major legal squabble is likely on that point.

Asked about the record companies’ claims, which are based on the principle that recording artists are “work for hire” when they make albums for record companies, and therefore never have any claim to copyright ownership, Henley said: “A lot of those are red herrings the labels have thrown out there to try to confuse the issue”.

He continued: “Record companies insist sound recordings are ‘work for hire’ and artists are employees of the companies. Which is a real interesting claim because we don’t enjoy any of the benefits or obligations a normal employee would be granted. They don’t provide health insurance for us. They don’t pay social security for us. They don’t withhold taxes from our royalty checks. They don’t provide us a place of employment. It’s a real stretch for the record companies to claim we’re employees. We’re independent contractors”.

You can read the full interview here.