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Copyright Protection for Pre-1972 Sound Recordings

The U.S. Copyright Office has issued its report on Federal Copyright Protection for Pre-1972 Sound Recordings. The report, prepared after receiving written and oral input from stakeholders, recommends that sound recordings made before February 15, 1972 be brought into the federal copyright regime.

Congress instructed the Copyright Office to conduct a study on the desirability of and means for bringing pre-1972 sound recordings into the federal copyright regime. Congress directed that study was to cover the effect of federal coverage on the preservation of such sound recordings, the effect on public access to those recordings, and the economic impact of federal coverage on rights holders. The study was also to examine the means for accomplishing such coverage.

Although sound recordings were first given federal copyright protection in 1972, sound recordings made before February 15, 1972 remained protected under state law rather than under the federal copyright statute. As a result, there are a variety of legal regimes governing protection of pre-1972 sound recordings in the various states, and the scope of protection and of exceptions and limitations to that protection is unclear. Current law provides that pre-1972 sound recordings may remain protected under state law until February 15, 2067. After that date they will enter the public domain.

The term of protection for sound recordings fixed prior to February 15, 1972 should be 95 years from publication or, if the work had not been published prior to the effective date of legislation federalizing protection, 120 years from fixation.

The full report can be found on the website of the Copyright Office at: Federal Copyright Protection for Pre-1972 Sound Recordings

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