Media lawyer David B. Zitzerman explains the reasoning behind today's brief, strategic release of rare Beatles tracks
Dozens of demo recordings, studio outtakes and some 1963 BBC performances by the Beatles are temporarily released for sale online today, in a bid to protect the rare tracks from falling into the public domain next year.
Known as The Beatles: Bootleg Recordings 1963, the release encompassed a 59-track collection.
The featured songs include, for instance, alternate takes of classics such as She Loves You, live performances of Chuck Berry's Roll Over Beethoven and other songs, as well as demos that the iconic Liverpool band recorded but eventually passed on to other artists, including Bad to Me and I'm in Love.
The tracks were never officially released, although hardcore Beatles devotees have traded lo-fi, bootlegged versions for years.
According to media reports, Apple Records and Universal Music Group staged a brief release of the Beatles cache via iTunes in Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe and North America today. The tracks were then removed shortly thereafter.
"In the European Union, the terms of copyright for sound recordings, records if you like, was 50 years from the making of the record. There was a big lobby going on for a few years ago in the EU to extend it out to 70 years. The European Union agreed to extend it, but there was a condition: the condition was use it or lose it. You had to release the recording commercially in order to get the extension," David B. Zitzerman, media lawyer for Goodman's, told CBC News on Tuesday.
For Canada, "our own term for copyright for sound recordings is 50 years," media lawyer David B. Zitzerman said. "But if it's published — made available to the public — it's another 50 years. So in fact, in Canada, by publishing, you get 50 extra years."
"The use-it-or-lose-it clause essentially says that if it's commercially released to the public, made available to the public, that triggers the 20-year extension of the copyright. So as long as they have a sufficient commercial release to satisfy that requirement, you get another 20 years."
According to industry watchers, the move was simply about protecting the Beatles brand. If the recordings had landed in the public domain in 2014, anyone could hastily assemble the "free" tracks into an album and profit from its sale.
The temporary-release tactic has also been used by Bob Dylan, who has released two volumes dubbed The Copyright Extension Collection, and Motown Records, which has put out rare recordings under the banner Motown Unreleased.