WASHINGTON, D.C.—What is the copyright status of pre-1972 sound recordings that are subsequently remastered? Federal courts aim to answer that question and, according to Womble Bond Dickinson’s John Garziglia, what they decide could result in some radio stations having to make royalty payments for playing such songs.

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit against a broadcaster for playing digitized versions of pre-1972 songs. Federal law covers all sound recordings made on or after February 15, 1972, while older recordings are subject to any existing state laws. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision and sent the case back to the lower courts for more hearings.

At stake is the issue of remastering old songs. Does digitizing and remastering these songs make them new, post-1972 copyrighted works? If not, are they subject to pre-1972 performance right laws on the state level?

Garziglia tells Radio Ink that if the pre-1972 laws are ruled applicable, radio stations could face financial liabilities. “In a nutshell, what the Ninth Circuit decided here was that creating digital copies of pre-1972 recordings that were previously released on vinyl or other analog media was not sufficient under copyright law to remove any pre-1972 state law copyright protection those recordings may have had in California,” he tells Radio Ink.

Click here to read “What Does the Pre-1972 Ruling Mean to You?” in Radio Ink.

John Garziglia represents radio and television broadcasters, offering personalized assistance in all areas of communications and telecommunications law including transactional and contract negotiations for broadcast station mergers and acquisitions, the securing of financing, governmental auctions of new frequencies, license renewals, new stations applications, facility changes, facility upgrades, licensing, and compliance with FCC rules, regulations and policies.