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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Why is "Love Me Do" now out of copyright?

Here’s an interesting development in the murky world of music copyright .. It’s a watershed moment when one of the earliest Beatles studio recordings ("Love Me Do") falls out of copyright before the extended 70 year protection kicks in.

CMU's Article is both informative and impartial. Do read it all!

In contrast, Music Week (as one might expect) raises concerns on behalf of the record labels that have lost their exclusive right to control these recordings.

It’s worth noting that:

1.    The sound recording of "Love Me Do" has only become public domain in the UK though is certainly not public domain in the US. Therefore any on-line exploitation couldn’t take advantage of this opportunity to potentially avoid a licence from the relevant record label (EMI Records, now controlled by Universal Music Group).

2.    The underlying composition "Love Me Do" is of course still in copyright. Even though John Lennon has sadly been dead since 1980, Sir Paul McCartney is still very much alive. As a co-written song, the composition remains in copyright until 70 years after the death of the last writer (in this case McCartney).

The issue of public domain is complex and often misunderstood by brands and agencies that might look to by-pass traditional licensing structures. Any exploitation of 3rd party controlled copyright without an appropriate valid licence is likely to lead to a claim by the rightful owners. Wise brands and agencies engage the help of expert licensing and legal resource before making dangerous assumptions that potential public domain rights allow them to use any music assets for free.

Getting it wrong on the basis of ill-informed advice is no defence for infringement of copyright. As the saying goes:

"If you think hiring a professional is expensive, trying hiring an amateur!"

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