Song Rights

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Aug 20, 2011    •    709 Views

When do we own what we create? It depends.

For Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, hit albums controlled by record companies might soon become theirs again. During the mid-1970s, the Congress decided that after 35 years, a musician could regain the copyright held by a record company by following a specified procedure. Called termination rights, the copyright switch can begin in 2013 for Billy Joel’s “52nd Street” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” The NY Times provides a list of some of the performers who might benefit and also reminds us that record companies will probably contest the artists’ claims.

In this Econtalk discussion, you can decide whether you agree with an author who complains that his family cannot inherit an unending copyright for his work.

The Economic Lesson

Trademarks, copyrights and patents protect intellectual property. With Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 saying, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries,” the US Constitution established the right to protect innovation.

Interestingly, although Hamilton and Jefferson did not entirely agree, both were involved with the first Patent Act in 1790.

An Economic Question: Being able to restrict use of someone’s ideas can hinder and fuel progress. Explain.


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