Earlier this week, we told you of a new Bob Dylan rarities collection released by Sony Records before the material became public domain. “This isn’t a scheme to make money,” a Sony Music representative explained Rolling Stone. “The copyright law in Europe was recently extended from 50 to 70 years for everything recorded in 1963 and beyond. With everything before that, there’s a new ‘Use It or Lose It’ provision. It basically said, ‘If you haven’t used the recordings in the first 50 years, you aren’t going to get any more.’”
Universal Music, owners of The Beatles’ catalog, are dealing with a similar situation. The European Union’s current copyright law states that any song released after January 1st, 1963 won’t become public domain for 70 years. The Beatles’ debut single “Love Me Do” and its B-Side “P.S. I Love You” were released in October 1962.
The copyrights in the songs, of course, are not affected, because they are subject to a different term (life of the creators – i.e. Lennon and McCartney – plus 70 years), but providing the songs’ publishers are paid a licence fee, it means anyone can distribute those original recordings without the permission of their former owners, EMI, or now Universal Music.
And first to seemingly capitalise on that fact is a company called Digital Remasterings, which has included ‘Love Me Do’ on a compilation of very early Beatles recordings, mainly live recordings from their time working at Hamburg’s Star Club. Meanwhile a company called Pristine Classical, which specialises in releasing remastered versions of out-of-copyright classical recordings, has issued its own remaster of ‘Love Me Do’, seemingly in protest at the copyright extension.
So if you’d like to begin selling the two songs without fear of prosecution and live in Europe, then go right ahead. Since I don’t live in Europe, I’m just going to embed the song below.
(In case you were wondering: U.S. copyright protection is for up to 95 years — so there’s still a ways to go before we can profit off Lou Reed).