Termination of Transfers

The year 2013 represents a significant milestone for recording artists who delivered master recordings to record companies on January 1, 1978 and after. Starting in 2013, recording artists may be able to reclaim those songs from the record companies.

Section 203 of Title 17 of the United States Code provides that transfers “executed by the author on or after January 1, 1978, otherwise than by will, [are] subject to termination” under certain conditions. Such terminations may be affected by the author during a period of 5 years starting at the end of the 35th year from when the transfer was completed (i.e. the recordings were delivered), provided that the author gives advance notice.

For example, if a recording artist delivered masters in 1978 to a record company under a recording contract, the artist will be able to reclaim all songs transferred in that deal from the record company between the years 2013 and 2018. The artist, however, must provide advance notice to the record company of their intent to reclaim the songs. This notice must be given at a minimum of 2 years prior to the date that the artist intends to reclaim the songs but may be given as early as 10 years prior. Thus, if the artist intends to reclaim songs in the year 2013, notice must be given this year, in 2011.

Any artists who do not provide the appropriate notice and do not reclaim their works within the 5 year window allotted to them, will lose this right. If the artist is successfully able to reclaim their works, all rights under the Copyright Act will be returned to the artist as the exclusive rights holder. (Please see the relevant articles on my site for further information.)

If you are an artist who may be interested in and eligible to reclaim your songs from record companies in the near future, and you desire to do so or have questions about the terms and procedures necessary, please contact me. You may have a golden opportunity on the horizon!