WASHINGTON, D.C.—Do broadcasters have copyright liability for the performance of pre-1972 sound recordings that later were digitally re-mastered? Womble Carlyle Telecom attorney John Garziglia has followed this legal question for years, and he says a recent court decision likely is not the end of the story.
On June 1st, a US District Court Judge agreed with CBS that re-mastered pre-1972 songs are not protected under state law and CBS doesn’t have to pay the original owners to broadcast that material.
But Garziglia tells Radio Ink that the decision was highly technical and may not apply to other songs in other cases. “It hinges on the determination that the digital re-mastering process of the analog recordings was not just creating bits and bytes out of the analog sound, but rather involved a recording engineer making significant changes including remixing multitrack source material, adjustments of equalization, sound editing and channel assignment. It is quite possible that with other pre-1972 recordings that were not the subject of this proceeding, analog source material was simply dumped into a digital format without any discernable alterations whatsoever which, if the case, would lead to a completely different verdict,” he said.
The National Association of Broadcasters shared Garziglia’s Radio Ink story in its June 2nd SmartBrief newsletter.
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.
Follow John Garziglia on Twitter at @JohnGarziglia.