Eva E. Subotnik’s article, Constitutional Obstacles? Reconsidering Copyright Protection for Pre-1972 Sound Recordings, co-written with June M. Besek, will appear in the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts next spring. Here’s the abstract:
Amidst the waves of cutting-edge technological innovation affecting access to music, the eyes and ears of the music industry, library associations, policy makers and others are focused on a legislative decision made some four decades ago. Specifically, these parties are staking out their positions on the possibility of extending federal copyright protection to pre-1972 sound recordings. Those sound recordings are currently protected by a patchwork of state laws, which will not be preempted by federal copyright until 2067, when all pre-1972 sound recordings will enter the public domain.
The U.S. Copyright Office recently issued a report recommending that federal law be amended to bring pre-1972 sound recordings under federal copyright protection in the near future. The Office’s proposal would result in a shorter term of protection for some recordings, and effect other changes in the rights and responsibilities of right holders and users of pre-1972 sound recordings. This article examines the constitutional implications of such a change. In particular, we consider whether, in the face of a challenge that might be brought by affected stakeholders, such a legislative amendment could violate due process or constitute a taking pursuant to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.