A posting on the WIRED magazine property Epicenter has some pretty exciting news about the Copyright Act of 1976, including the fact that a good-sized catalog of music will revert to the control of artists from the control of record labels. Unfortunately, the title of the article frames the story as terrible news instead of the good news that it is. Bands like the Eagles are lining up to take advantage of this part of the copyright bargain coming to pass. Hopefully they will get what they were promised 35 years ago. If I were paying a mortgage on a house for 35 years, I would expect that with my final payment, the house would finally accrue to me when the mortgage expired, but the history of the US government and copyright (at least in the past 100 years) has been to consistently change the bargain at the last minute so that those of us who are due rights promised to us in the future never actually see that future arrive.
Will this time be different? I hope so, because I’d like to see what happens when the artists, not the labels, can act as stewards of the artists’s works. I think we’ve suffered the monopoly control of the labels for far too long, with far too little good to show for it.