When Bob Dylan sold all of his music rights to Universal Music, the most curious thing fans and industry insiders were definitely about was the price. But there's a more critical question here: How did Dylan get the rights to almost all of his music before 1990?
bob dylan， 1965
Text: Ah crooked
Editor: Zuo Chunchun
When Dylan debuted in the early 1960s, the standard music distribution contract terms were 50% of the royalties paid by the creators, and the remaining 50% went to the publishers. Creators typically sign such contracts with publishers and allow publishers to own the rights to two issues of their music, each for 28 years, for a total of 56 years.
This was due to the imperfection of copyright law in the United States at that time, a contract consisting of 28 years of so-called "copyright protection period" and 28 years of "renewal period", the name was signed half a lifetime has passed, which makes the creators who are already inferior in copyright transfer miserable, even big writers like Mark Twain have been on it.
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In 1962, Dylan signed his first publishing contract with Leeds Music Publishing, and according to Phil Hardy in his book Nickels & Dimes: Music Publishing & Its Administration in the Modern Age, Dylan also signed with Witmark that same year & sons) signed another contract.
When told he couldn't sign with two publishers at the same time, Dylan had the privilege of having legendary manager Artie Mogull make him a military master, asking him to pay for the problem and redeem himself from Leeds first.
Dylan did, but his early songs, including two original songs from his debut album, remained in Leeds's hands until leeds was acquired by MCA, the predecessor of Universal Music Group. That is to say, after going around, these songs eventually came to Universal and met with Dylan's other masterpieces.
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In those days, Dylan's contract with Leeds was clearly a prime example. By 1976, U.S. copyright law abolished the copyright renewal system, and the transfer period for regulating copyright was mandatory to 35 years.
This also gives creators after 1978, including songwriters, the right to reclaim the copyright of their works after 35 years, and this "corrective justice" finally brings a certain degree of fairness to creators, as mentioned earlier, before 1978, which often takes 56 years.
Based on information provided by the U.S. Copyright Office, Dylan filed a notice of termination of his first copyright on February 17, 2010. The notice came into effect on June 30, 2018, 56 years after the album's release. However, when Dylan regained these rights in the United States, the copyrights in other countries did not terminate, so they were still owned by Universal Records (Dylan also applied for the termination of copyright for the arrangement of several of his cover songs).
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But beyond that, Dylan doesn't seem to have filed any other copyright termination notices with the Copyright Office, which is obviously not very reasonable for the creator who signed a publishing agreement in the early 1960s, and it is reasonable to say that he should write a copyright termination notice for every album and song he should have given, but he obviously did not use this avenue to defend his rights.
So how did he get the rights to all his other works in 1990? How did he, who foolishly signed two publishing contracts at the start of his career, grow up late enough to make such an informed decision? I am afraid that his business acumen and the advice of others have played a big role.
A retired leadership member of Sony Music said: "Dylan has a great interest in the company's operations, always asking how the company works," he had dealt with Dylan in the seventies and eighties, "which is another identity in addition to being a talented creator and artist." ”
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In Fer Hardy's book, Dylan and his new agent, Albert Grossman, signed an agreement with Witmark that would allow each party to own half of the copyright, which is standard practice in the industry. But what was surprising was that Dylan did not sign an ordinary two-issue agreement with Wittmark, but was prescient to sign only one contract, that is, 28 years, without signing a renewal of the copyright transfer, so that he could take back all the ownership of the songs he transferred in the agreement in 1990.
One executive working on buying and selling copyright said it was "surprisingly wise and off the beaten path." Of course, this wisdom did not belong to Dylan alone, and a creators organization at the time also provided an original contract requesting the signing of a copyright issue.
According to an article by Billboard published on November 20, 1965, Dylan and Grossman founded Dylan's first publishing company, Dwarf Music, and hired Mogur to run it. In 1969, Dylan and Grossman broke up, with him owning the management of the song and Grossman holding part of the shares.
That year, Dylan founded a publishing company of his own, Big Sky Music, followed by ram's horn music, and later special rider music, companies with strange names that gave Dylan the rights to all the songs he'd ever since written.
Bob Dylan's copyright documents provided by Tim Dunn show that in order to regain full copyright to the Dwarven Music and Big Sky Music songs, Dylan filed a lawsuit and eventually settled with Grusman's heirs.
Whether it was then or now, many singers and creators are just migrant workers under the hands of capitalists, and many respected elders have to run in various fields to earn pension money in their later years.
The two parties to the copyright transfer contract are in an unequal position in terms of economy and information, and the creator is often not sure whether his work has corresponding value, so there are many works whose value is far undervalued that the creator regrets after signing the contract.
Bob Dylan was able to earn a few lifetimes of pension money in such a big environment, thanks to the foresight of his youth, and we have to admit that his confidence in himself is really well-founded.