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Musical Space

Here Come Termination Rights

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Congress changed copyright law in the 1970s with a provision that allows songwriters to get out of their contracts 35 years after they had signed away their rights to record companies.

This new freedom – called “termination rights” - applies to songs from 1978 or after. Termination rights could be a good thing for listeners. A window of opportunity is now opening for baby boomers. The ownership of songs like “Funkytown” and “YMCA” could soon revert to their composers. Devo, Journey, Billy Joel, Roberta Flack and many others have also filed papers to reclaim their rights. Prince has recently renegotiated his deal with Warner Brothers because of the law.

I’m not saying all record contracts are bad, but sometimes a company will choose not to market a song in their catalog, leaving the composer high and dry. There must be tons of work out there that record companies weren’t able to promote. My hope is that artists themselves will now be able to bring their older songs out of obscurity. Music that had never been released might now see the light of day. I can’t wait to hear what happens!