So 2012 seems like it will be another interesting year in entertainment and intellectual property law. I discussed my predictions for the year in terms of hot topics in social media and the law over at the Social Media Club Clubhouse, and will be posting a midyear update soon, so I thought I would discuss some hot topics I’ve noticed in entertainment law over here.
A big topic to keep an eye on is termination of copyright grants. You may have read about the recent court decision in favor of Village People singer Victor Willis allowing him to terminate his portion of the grant of copyright rights to Scorpio Music and Can’t Stop Productions, the companies who administer the music publishing for the group’s songs. You will likely be seeing more litigation in this area, as 2013 will be the first year in which songwriters and recording artists who made grants of their copyrights to publishers or record labels can terminate those grants under the copyright law. In 1978, an extension of the copyright act went into effect that granted artists the right to terminate their copyright grants 35 years after that grant under section 203. There are some strict requirements to send a termination notice, and the notice must be sent not less than two years before the termination date, and not more than 10 years before that date.
Think of the artists who would have been making these copyright grants 35 years ago…some big names come to mind: the Eagles, Bob Dylan, the Village People, Tom Petty, the list goes on and on. Losing the right to license these songs or recordings could be a big blow to a record label or music publisher, which is why you will likely see a lot of litigation next year trying to prevent these terminations from going through. Another wrinkle that arises when you are talking about termination is whether sound recordings fall within the termination provisions of the copyright law. This has its roots in the provisions in most record contracts that states that any recordings created during the term of that contract are works made for hire that would be owned by the record label, and the fact that sound recordings are not one of the categories of works that can be works made for hire. If the recordings were found to be works made for hire, under the copyright law they would be seen as having been authored by the record company, and giving the termination right to the label rather than to the artist.
I think that’s a good place to start, enjoy the food for thought. Up next, I’ll discuss recent developments in right of publicity cases, especially in music video games.