Rep. Conyers Wants To Clarify Termination Rights Under Copyright Law

from the but in which direction dept

With all the talk of musicians and their contested termination rights lately (as well as a few early cases about termination rights), it appears that Congress is starting to pay attention. Rep. John Conyers has stepped up to say that Congress should clarify termination rights, and it sounds as though he’s going against the record labels here. While he doesn’t say so directly, his statements suggest that he means making sure that artists can get back their copyrights.

If that’s accurate, that’s good to hear. It is a bit surprising, however, since Conyers gets a ton of money from the entertainment industry (his second largest supporters after “lawyers.”) And, in the past, Conyers has been in favor of taxing radio and also locking up federally funded research behind copyright. Still, if he’s really willing to help get Congress to make it clear that musicians signed to record labels were not “work for hire” situations, and should be able to terminate their copyright assignments, that would be a good step forward.

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Comments on “Rep. Conyers Wants To Clarify Termination Rights Under Copyright Law”

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Leaves me cold

This dispute rather leaves me cold – for a start this “termination rights” thing – seems to be a US peculiarity – which, like many other aspects in which US law is/has been “better” than most of the rest of the world, is unlikely to survive long enough for current artists to collect on. (You know, international treaties and all.)

Secondly, why on earth should anything even BE in copyright after 35 years?

At best there is a little schadenfreude from watching two groups, who usually gang up on the public, fighting each other for a change.


Re: Re: Leaves me cold

Lawyers are only tools used when two parties can’t settle their differences. This quite often happens because one of the parties think that they are beyond the law or any sort of ethics.

The Cult of Crassus leads to ever more abusive behavior by corporations casually excused because of “profit”.

Behind every lawyer there is a litigant.


Re: Not going to happen

One Congress Critter wanting something does not mean that the other 434 Representatives are suddenly going to say “You know, that John Conyers is right.

It depends on two things really:

1. How badly Conyers wants this to happen AND,
2. How badly the other 434 want something else that can be negotiated

Given these criteria and some good old fashioned horsetrading in the back room and you might see something happen here. The key is in how many others also will sign on to this and what they have to offer in trade to those still on the fence or opposing it when the meeting is held in said back room.

Never underestimate the power of a good negotiation to get things through, regardless of public rhetoric or campaign promises to the contrary.

legislating is not called sausage making without reason or precedent…

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Cynic mode engaged…
Hasn’t he recently been redistricted and is now facing a much younger politician throwing his hat into the ring for his seat?

He has also taken a beating over the activities of his wife, and her antics of trying to get special treatment while serving her sentence.

Then there were the properties he owned that were overgrown and not maintained and nothing happened until someone called the media. He dodged comment and strung them along until they found him and stuck a camera on his face, and then was telling the reporter to not do it to him.

In the metro area you have many people who want to be famous when they grow up, so the cynic mode suggests he might just be trying to appeal to the voters to keep what he has. See when your famous I’ll make sure they don’t steal your music from you.

Congressman's Error Explained

This just in:

“The recent statements attributed to Congressman Conyers regarding the “right of termination” was taken out of context and did not accurately reflect the position of Congressman Conyers. The staff person who wrote the release incorrectly believed that the issue being addressed involved the protection of CHILDREN from the plethora of PORNOGRAPHY appearing on the Internet and the termination of copyrights claimed by the creators thereof.”

Ima Fishsays:

Let me get this straight…

Currently the law allows musicians to get their copyrights back.

Congress, which is heavily financed by the RIAA, wants to modify that very law to “help the artists.” Even though the law is already in the artists’ favor.

Ummm…. I’m going to go out on a limb here. The artists are going to get screwed!

That Anonymous Cowardsays:


well the labels are arguing that they fall into a category that doesn’t qualify for termination to happen.

the artists are saying no they don’t and we want to get back our copyrights.

There is a chance they might side with the artists.
There is also a chance Warren Buffet will pay more in taxes this year than his cleaning lady….


Re: Re:

Just wanted to point out that Warren Buffet will definitely pay way more than his cleaning lady this year, even if the percentage that he pays is less.

I would rather have 1% of $1,000,000,000 than 90% of $100.

And if his 27% (or whatever) is $47,000,000 then he’ll be paying a lot more than 37% of his cleaning lady’s $36,000 a year (or whatever, the numbers were made up to make a point).


Re: Re: Re:

And if his 27% (or whatever) is $47,000,000 then he’ll be paying a lot more than 37% of his cleaning lady’s $36,000 a year (or whatever, the numbers were made up to make a point).

So you are saying that those who make the least should pay a higher percentage of their overall income in taxes eh? Absolute numbers are deceptive and a 1% increase in taxation for those at the top is not felt at all while those at the middle or bottom of the pecking order could be placed in a position where they have to make a decision about whether to pay for rent this month or for their medications to keep them healthy…

Nice – running for Marquis de Sade or just shillin’ for LULZ?


clarify termination rights,

clarify termination rights? Who said it has to be on the side of the artist? He could side with the industry, by clarifying that termination rights do not exist, or are extremely rare.
This is, after all, a lawyer & politician.

Ruling body: “the best politicians money can buy”
or When do you know when a lawyer is lying?
When his lips are moving.


Re: clarify termination rights,

You’ve hit it, friend. Here, “clarify” is as (or more) likely to favor Big Content as it is to favor the artists. The clarification could well be that, “as in the Bob Marley case, ALL songs recorded by musicians under their contracts with music labels are Works Made for Hire.” Or some such. Could go the other way, but I’m of course not holding my breath. Easy for Conyers to paint this as pro-artist, given the even or better chance of the result coming out the opposite. Then he gets it both ways fa sho.


one of the reasons i have hated these MAFIAA for decades.
they have screwed over artists and some were people i knew tying up their music for years after they were dropped from the label they stupidly signed with.

Sign with any RIAA/Big Label and you are a traitor to the rest of us Artists.You are a sell-out and now you will get what you deserve.

Should of stayed INDIE/DIY and you will be better off.


The easiest way for the RIAA to win this is issue is to change the language of the 1976 Copyright Act, which they already tried to do in 1999 with Mitch Glazier. So they get Conyers to ask Congress to “clarify” the language of the 1976 act, and of course nobody will go along with that unless it’s “to help the artists who have been treated unfairly” so Conyers says all the right things to get people on his side.

Of course, once Congress decides the language needs to be changed, that’s when the RIAA will leap in and makes sure it changes to just the language they want. Anything Conyers says now will have nothing to do with the final language that will be voted on once the lobbyists are done.

Ultimately Congress will side with the RIAA because keeping mega-corporations in business and profitable is more important for the economy than the rights of aging (and in the high profile cases we’ll hear about, rich) musicians. It may cost the labels millions, but it will be cheaper than taking all the artists to court.

The only way the musicians will be able to fight it is to get their fans interested in the issue en masse, but fans don’t always like it when musicians get political, and won’t have a lot of sympathy for something that seems like rich musicians being greedy. The fans just want more songs about love that they can dance to. The artists will lose.

The 1976 act doesn’t need any clarification. The artists should get their music back, and be able to make any deal with any label they want after that, or create their own personal label. It’s the best thing that could happen to music right now, which is why it won’t happen.


I’m all in favor of Congress clarifying aspects of law that are ambiguous, but I’m not sure if it makes sense to “clarify” something that people have relied on for nearly 35 years.

In other words, I don’t think it makes sense for any clarification to be retroactive to January 1, 1978 (no matter which way he wants to “clarify” the law).


Re: Re:

Tiny? I think not.

Whether or not a sound recording made for purposes of inclusion in an album could be considered a work made for hire is not clear, and there are lots of sound recordings made for purposes of inclusion in an album under contracts that say they are works made for hire.

The NYT article is not clear, but certainly suggests this is the clarification Conyers is talking about (not that I trust media articles to get legal issues even close to right).


Re: Re: Re:

No no–you’re totally right about the WMFH thing. That is not in any way “tiny.” The tiny thing is something totally other that relates to a small group of works made during a short amount of time, not published until another date in that small amount of time. That’s the “tiny” thing I meant. The WMFH issue is the whole meat of this thing.


I am totally cynical about a politician doing the right thing. Every once in a while there comes along some need that coincides with the public needs but it is the rarity rather than the common cause.

Politicians are good at one thing; lying. The bulk of them do that well and in spades. When you get one saying he’s going to address something, hold on to your skepticism and wallet. Most of the time you’ll cost you some of both.

Is it any wonder that the majority of the US citizens now believe that government no longer has the consent to govern?

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