COPYRAGE: Sony screws Bob Dylan fans with ridiculously limited-edition box set

7 Jan

by Mike Hansen

Bob Dylan 50th front

Way to rub it in everyone’s faces, Sony!

U.S. copyright law tends to revolve around ensuring that Disney continues to own Mickey Mouse in perpetuity (along with Warner Brothers clinging tenaciously to Superman and Batman, Marvel to Captain America, etc.). In Europe, it seems to be all about its music superstars.

Today, Rolling Stone reported something sure to annoy 99.999999999999% of Bob Dylan fans: about 100 copies of an official 4-CD, 86-song Bob Dylan box set of 1962 outtakes (Dylan’s first year with Columbia Records, now owned by Sony Music).

“This isn’t a scheme to make money,” a Sony Music source tells Rolling Stone. “The copyright law in Europe was recently extended from 50 to 70 years for everything recorded in 1963 and beyond. With everything before that, there’s a new ‘Use It or Lose It’ provision. It basically said, ‘If you haven’t used the recordings in the first 50 years, you aren’t going to get any more.'”

Bob Dylan 50th backSo even though Sony doesn’t intend to make money from these recordings (most of which are widely available on bootleg), it wants to ensure that they don’t enter the public domain so they can be freely copied and shared. Really? Is Sony that afraid of having to compete with anyone’s ability to package, release, and distribute the material in a manner of their choosing?

Bob Dylan’s 1962 debut LP became a part of the European public domain on January 1st, meaning anybody in Europe can release the music without paying Dylan one dime. “The whole point of copyrighting this stuff is that we intend to do something with it at some point in the future,” says the source. “But it wasn’t the right time to do it right after he released Tempest. There are other things we want to do in 2013 though.”

Oh, okay: so Sony DOES intend to make money off it. LATER. So they’re lying. Classy!

I’m all for compensating artists for their work, but these are recordings that sat on the shelf for over 50 years while the artist and record company made no effort to make a penny off them. And instead of just allowing the material to become public-domain (like Dylan’s first album and, I assume, the Beatles’ earliest recordings), Sony released just *100* copies of the material to protect its copyright while ensuring that virtually 0% of Bob Dylan fans will actually (legally) hear the material. In a business where record labels routinely underpay their artists (and overpay their executives), this is simply a corporate move to hold onto property it doesn’t care about, just in case it might be worth a few dollars later. This doesn’t benefit the artist; it doesn’t benefit the consumer; and it doesn’t benefit the corporate behemoth greedily clutching the rights. What’s the point?

According to the New York Times, it looks like only Dylan fans in France and Germany can legally download this material from the artist’s website. What?

… Sony is not alone. Universal, which owns the Motown catalog, has released a series of jazz, gospel and rhythm and blues albums under the rubric “Motown Unreleased 1962,” which makes a large body of its unissued archives eligible for the European copyright extension.

Wow. If this isn’t abuse of copyright law, I don’t know what is. It’s no wonder music fans continue to use extralegal methods to acquire music. This is Exhibit A for why copyright law needs to be amended for the benefit of creators and the public, instead of for corporations that behave like mental patients.

5 Responses to “COPYRAGE: Sony screws Bob Dylan fans with ridiculously limited-edition box set”

  1. David Burgess January 8, 2013 at 00:58 #

    Sony better hurry up and “Do something with the recordings before we all die.I am sure there will be demand ad infinitum for Dylan product but the had core ” buyers are in their 60’s and seventies.So how much longer do we have left.I myself would have bought this collection 45 years ago. We already have a limited number of the recordings on bootleg vinyl and CD

  2. Frank Cipriano January 8, 2013 at 07:20 #

    If you look hard enough you can find several file sharing sotes that already have these 4 CD’s uploaded. Also, any avid Dylan fan would have had these in their collections years ago. So Sony can eat it.

  3. gringo557 January 8, 2013 at 08:53 #

    Well said. I’m glad somebody has the balls the call the Emperor naked!

  4. Stan Denski January 8, 2013 at 20:40 #

    The BIG problem with copyright is that almost nobody understands the idea behind it. The idea of copyright for Thomas Jefferson and his peers was NOT to protect the ARTIST, it was to protect the CULTURE. It was designed to last a short time, during which the artist could make as much money as he could, but after which the work re-entered the river of ideas that it came from originally. The idea has been perverted over the centuries into something else entirely.

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