Potential Clash of Record Labels and Artist Regarding Copyright Claims Looms
The year 1978 was an excellent one for country music. It was during this time that country songs like “Talking in Your Sleep” by Crystal Gayle, “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed” by Barbara Mandrell, as well as Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” hit the airwaves
Today, the issue of who continues to own these country standards, along with thousands more songs, is about to become the center of a potentially fierce legal battle between the record labels who profited from these songs for many years and the artists who originally performed them. Included in the skirmish are the songwriters who composed the music and companies that retain publishing rights.
An amendment in federal copyright law which was passed during the 1970s will be reaching its first important landmark this year. The measure established a 35-year limit for the ownership of music, starting with songs that were released in 1978, and then for all releases each year going forward.
The songwriters and performers’ deadline to exercise their “termination rights” to take back the copyrights that they normally sign away to publishing companies or record labels early in their careers is fast approaching. The notice of termination for those songs that were released in 1978 should be filed at least two years before or by Dec. 31 this year.
Artists’ managers and their attorneys estimate that thousands of songwriters and artists have already filed their notices with the U.S. Copyright Office of their intention to regain their copyrights, whose value could vary from nothing to millions of dollars.
On the other hand, record companies also made it clear that they are not inclined in relinquishing ownership of the still-profitable tunes.