03.10.2022

Sony published old bob dylan songs in a nearly three-digit number of copies in order to benefit from an eu performance rights extension

In 2011, the eu extended performance rights for music recordings from 50 to 70 years, despite sharp criticism from legal scholars. This extension should (after its implementation in the member countries) also apply retroactively. The prerequisite for this, however, is that the pieces were published. The sony group published a four-cd box set with 86 old bob dylan songs from the early 1960s in a tiny print run of "about 100 pieces", whose sole purpose is to claim the ancillary copyright claim.

Sony not only openly admits this to the press, but also calls this bootleg-like "50th anniversary collection" in the subtitle even blatantly "the copyright extension collection vol. 1". Allegedly, it has already been decided before the 31. December 2012 to a few selected record stores in the uk, france, germany and sweden, where it was sold at prices ranging from just under 30 to just over 100 euros. It was not possible to find out how many relatives and friends of sony employees immediately secured the collector’s item, which is expected to increase in value. It is now being sold on ebay for over 1000 euros.

Bob dylan on the "civil rights march on washington" on 28. August 1963. Photo: u.S. Information agency. Press and publications service.

The rapid appearance of all 86 pieces in file-sharing systems seems to have done no harm to sales or price development. Among them are many alternate takes of songs familiar from the freewheelin’ bob dylan, the songwriter’s second album – including blowin’ in the wind, bob dylan’s dream and i shall be free. Also pieces from the recording sessions at that time, which did not make it on the album, are partly included in several different versions. There are also live recordings from the gaslight cafe, carnegie hall and the finjan club, which are already known from bootlegs.

The new york times sees as highlights of the box a series of seven "increasingly more ubermutiger sounding" versions of the 1962 single mixed up confusion and three takes of a cover of robert johnson’s milkcow’s calf blues. Because the black blues musician who wrote this piece died in 1938, it was in the public domain without performance rights. Bob dylan has a copyright to the songs he composed and wrote himself, unaffected by ancillary copyright, which is valid for a much longer time and whose 70-year clock only starts ticking after his death.

That sony’s exploitation of the performance rights loophole will provide bob dylan with an incentive to write more or better pieces is hardly to be expected. In techdirt, mike masnick scoffed at this claim made by the eu commission and the european parliament as a justification: "anyway, i’m sure all of this activity is creating incentive for bob dylan to make more music from 1962."

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