January is a big month when it comes to copyright. You get old works entering the public domain for creators to use and create new works based on em.
So every 1 Jan, copyrighted works become copyright free.
Copyrighted works from 1925 entered the U.S. public domain, where they became free for all to use and build upon.
But these works from 1925 really expired in 2001 however the U.S. Congress extended the 75 year term to 95 years on the recommendation of the corporations that held the rights.
So if your a writer, you can use the story and ideas from “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald for your next story or “In Our Time” by Ernest Hemingway. Hell you can even rewrite them and include zombies. You can use them to make your own video game or movie without paying a fee.
The worrying part is how would the Public Domain look in the future.
Artists are selling off their rights to Investment organizations. And if there’s one thing I know, organizations will fight tooth and nail and lobby and bribe their way to ensure they do not lose out on their investments. More on that below.
First, Nicki Minaj paid Tracy Chapman $450K to make a copyright suit go away over an uncleared sample.
You see these popular artists and their producers and co-writers, use an existing famous song as the “foundation/bed” of a new song.
And they work it up, change the lyrics and bring in some other stuff and so forth. And if it still sounds similar to the original they will ask for a clearance or in some cases, run the gauntlet and release it, without a clearance.
Anyway this song was pulled from the Minaj album because Chapman wouldn’t give the clearance but Minaj liked the song so much and in a devious move, she gave the song to a radio DJ who played it and then uploaded it to social media.
Which of course pissed off Chapman.
And artists keep selling their copyrights to investment firms.
Here is a current artist in Ryan Tedder from One Republic who apart from writing songs for One Republic, he also writes for others.
An Investment firm called KKR doesn’t want to miss out on what other investment firms are doing, so they made a deal with Tedder to get a majority stake in his copyrights, which the firm valued at $200 million.
But Tedder previously made deals.
Check it out.
In 2016, he sold a percentage of his publishing, (but not the OneRepublic publishing), to Downtown Music Holdings. This firm will continue to own and administer those copyrights.
This is a usual business practice in which the artist tries to get the best price for their catalogue from a publisher for a limited term. Especially a valuable catalogue.
Universal Music Group’s Interscope Records still owns the master recordings to OneRepublic’s recorded music and they will earn the majority of revenue from sales and streaming and pay the artist as per the recording agreement.
KKR will earn income from Tedder’s and One Republic royalty income, as well as his producer royalties from other recordings for other artists.
A lot of hands are involved and it’s a complicated payment structure and who would have thought that Copyright would have become so complicated with so many deals.