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Musicians Persuade House to Reverse Plan

Legislation: Change will let them regain ownership of old recordings under copyright law. Previous bill would have stopped that.

September 21, 2000|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — House leaders have approved a bill reversing a measure that could have prevented artists from reclaiming ownership of their old recordings from record labels.

Lawmakers last year backed a four-line amendment to copyright law that changed a law artists say gives them ownership of their "sound recordings" 35 years after they debut. After protests from musicians, the House unanimously passed a bill Tuesday returning the law to its former state.

"This is a great day for musicians who write their own music," said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). The Senate has not yet considered the bill.

The furor started last year when a House panel approved a change in copyright law that had been slipped into a bill without a public hearing. It said music and other "sound recordings" were hired work, meaning that the performer had no right to reclaim ownership from his or her record label.

The change was made without a hearing or public debate because House and Senate staffers, along with the U.S. Copyright Office, believed that it simply wrote into law what had become a common practice.

But recording artists such as Don Henley, Jimmy Buffett and Earl Scruggs saw red, believing they faced big losses in potential royalties.

"Both parties will now breathe easier, the artists and the recording companies," said Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.).

If the bill passes, the law would revert to its former state and musicians and recording companies might have to litigate to decide to whom the original music belongs.

"We said from the beginning we did not intend to change the law and have worked diligently to assure that the issue of work for hire is resolved without prejudice to anyone's position," said Hilary Rosen, president and chief executive of the Recording Industry Assn. of America. "The book needs to be closed on this issue so we can get back to a united industry on so many important challenges of the day."

The bill number is HR 5107.

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