Say goodbye to the musical hits of the 50s and 60s if you like that sort of thing and listen via online services. Chances are they may start to disappear as the places where you now get your streaming music realize they need to protect themselves against a massive possible liability. As we’ve covered for some time, there have been a few lawsuits filed recently over the licensing status of pre-1972 sound recordings. There’s a lot of history here, but a short explanation is that in 1909, when Congress redid copyright law, it didn’t think that sound recordings (then a relatively new concept) were copyrightable subject matter. Of course, in the years following that, as the “music” business turned into the “recording industry” pressure mounted by that industry created a bunch of state regulations and common law that created copyright or copyright-like rights for sound recordings.
With the 1976 Copyright Act, rather than “federalizing” all sound recording copyrights, Congress basically left all pre-1972 recordings under those state laws, while effectively wiping out those laws for everything else. Since then, all copyright is under federal copyright law, but old sound recordings are still subject to those state laws. But those state laws were somewhat limited — and at no point did anyone seriously believe that there was any sort of public performance licensing required for those recordings. Well, not until a few years ago, when some big record labels started searching under the couch cushions for other ways to squeeze money out of online services. They’d already convinced Congress to force internet streaming sites to pay compulsory performance royalties (at insanely high rates), even though radio doesn’t have to pay that.
Radio stations will still play them but internet streaming sites may well not be playing any pre-1972 music at all.
Another example of how copyright is being used to destroy our social history even when it is not making a lot of money for anyone, except the lawyers.
Expect this to get worse before it gets better. Especially as long as corporations run our politics.