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Music Beat

January 19, 2013

Figuring who owns a 1978 recording can be complicated


If the ownership of recordings must be decided by interpretation of the law, there are two logical ways of doing so. Either the courts can interpret the law, or Congress can write new law. 

At this time, no court has reached a decision as to whether a recording can be a work for hire, and Congress has not addressed the issue by writing new law.

“Darkness on the Edge of Town,” recorded in 1978, is one of Bruce Springsteen’s most memorable albums. Who owns that recording? If someone in your family recorded songs for a record company in 1978 or later, should you be asking about ownership of those recordings? This will be an interesting year in the music industry as Congress or the courts move to answer those questions. 

Dr. Janet Nepkie is a member of the music industry faculty in the music department of the State University College at Oneonta. Her columns can be found at




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