Are Songwriters Prepared to Recapture Ownership?

After recent discussions with successful songwriters and industry veterans, I realized that many songwriters are unaware of their termination rights (also referred to as “recapture rights”) under the Copyright Act. A termination right simply means that you get a second chance to take back your copyright after an original transfer. Termination provisions provide songwriters and other copyright authors with a long-term insurance policy on the value of their copyrights. Congress has stated that these types of rights are needed because of the unequal bargaining position of songwriters, resulting in part from the impossibility of determining a song’s value until it has been exploited. Bart Herbison, executive director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), confirms that many songwriters remain unaware of this extraordinary right despite NSAI’s eight year long information campaign. And if you are talking about songs transferred after 1978, songwriters/composers only have one opportunity to exercise the right. Herbison says that even among songwriters who are aware of the recapture concept, many are putting off the process and may eventually find they waited too long. “If you have a song from 1978 and are interested in recapturing the copyright, you better begin the process immediately,” Herbison advised. “The…

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