Although this applies only to record deals signed in the US, it is nevertheless going to send shivers through every record label in the world.
By a quirk of US law–specifically Section 303 of the US Copyright Act–artists who handed over the rights to their music to their record labels as a result of their contracts have a right to reacquire those rights for themselves after 35 years provided they give proper notice.
The law went into effect in 1978, meaning that 2013 will be the year many artists will demand their music back. Notice has been given by a number of artists including Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Tom Petty and, um, the Village People with no doubt many more on the way.
Well, so what? First, these artists will begin to earn more money on the music made because they now control everything about those songs. Second, the labels will lose valuable sources in revenue.
Naturally, though, the labels aren’t going to sit by and watch all this happen. Litigation has already begun.
It’s a fascinating situation that could reshape the power structure of much of the music industry–as if we haven’t seen enough over that over the last dozen years. Read more about what’s going on here.