Then I Saw the Contract, Now I’m A Believer: Why “Concept Groups” are “Works for Hire” and Cannot Invoke Statutory Termination Rights After 2013
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The year 2013 will mark the first opportunity for musicians to exercise the copyright assignment termination rights granted by § 203 of the Copyright Act of 1976. In theory, exercising these termination rights will allow artists to reclaim the rights to their songs and albums which they had to assign to the various record companies as a means of recording, publishing, and selling their music. Artists that invest their creativity, musical talent, and time into making a successful record deserve to ultimately reap the benefits that flow from that success. On the other hand, artists that merely record songs written by others, dress and perform the way others direct them to, and have limited musical talent to contribute to the record, in most instances, do not deserve to reap the benefits that flow from that record’s success. This Comment argues that the latter category of artists, commonly referred to as “concept groups,” should not be allowed to exercise the statutory termination rights to reclaim the rights to the songs they recorded. Through examination of the Congressional intent behind the Copyright Act of 1976, common law agency principles, federal case law, and other scholarly work from the field, this comment urges courts to prevent artists classified as “concept groups” from exercising these termination rights.