Copyright laws can be weird things. Take the case of 59 Beatles songs recorded in 1963 that up until now have never been released except as illegal bootlegs. However, under British copyright law, Apple Records is being forced to put them up for sale on iTunes this week just so they can continue to exercise control over the songs.
Under European rules, artists retained copyright for 70 years after they were released. The key word in that sentence is “released.” UNreleased material–such as these 59 Beatles songs–would fall into the public domain after 50 years–1963 + 50 = 2013–unless they’re officially issued. In other words, the only way for the Apple Records to retain control of these songs–songs they don’t want to release–is to release them. Got it?
This could turn into an annual bonanza for Beatles fans. Unless the law changes–which is not likely at this point–we could end up seeing loads of Beatles songs (and songs by other artists of that vintage such as Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones) being issued just before the 50 year period of protection runs out.
That means that over the next seven years, we could get outtakes and alternate versions and mixes from Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper and tons more. It all depends what’s in the vaults and what Apple Records will be forced to put out simply because bootlegs have confirmed that the recordings exist.
Hardcore Beatles fans hoping for an official version of a legendary 28 minute version of “Helter Skelter” recorded in 1968–a bootleg favourite–will have to wait until this time in 2018. But it could be coming.