Agency Wants Old Recordings Under Federal Copyright Law 

Just before the New Year, the United States Copyright Office issued a report advocating for an expansion of federal copyright protection to old sound recordings. Currently, sound recordings made before 1972 have been governed by various state statutes, rather than federal copyright law. 

The Copyright Office believes that “federalization” will help encourage the preservation of and public access to these aging sound recordings. The agency also noted benefits for owners of the sound recordings, notably a right to performance royalties:  “…pre-1972 sound recordings that presently do not earn public performance royalties could become a significant revenue stream once incorporated into the federal statute.” Notably, Maria Pallante, head of the United States Copyright Office, has also previously highlighted the advancement of performance fees for on-air broadcasts as one of her agency’s priorities.

While performance tax legislation has not received attention in this Congress thus far, clearly the subject is not forgotten. NRB will continue to vigorously oppose a performance fee for broadcasters.

  • Read this Copyright Office report on pre-1972 sound recordings.
  • Find more commentary on this report.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations