The copyright-extension album becomes a December tradition

Canada’s report that Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Beach Boys among legendary acts releasing rarities to retain copyrights, something that’s become a new holiday tradition.

For the past three Decembers, a new musical tradition has been quietly taking root, even though at least a few interested parties would probably just as soon see it wither and die.

The origin: In 2012, the European Union revised its copyright law so that recordings would be protected for 70 years rather than 50. Attached to that extension, however, was a crucial proviso: in order to qualify for the extra 20 years of protection, the recordings had to be released within the first 50 years after they were made.

The result: In December 2012, labels began releasing — without fanfare and often in minute quantities — previously unreleased material from 1962. If they failed to do so, those recordings would move into the public domain in Europe, which means, thanks to the web, that they would soon be available everywhere.

The music: Among the first of the “copyright-extension” releases was a remarkable 86-track collection of unreleased Bob Dylan material. Spread over four discs, The 50th Anniversary Collection bore the admirably forthright subtitle The Copyright Extension Collection Vol. I.

The catch: Only 100 copies were made, and they were simply burned on to CD-Rs, like a homemade mixtape. Still, that was enough to fulfill the criteria to give it another 20 years of protection.



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