but copyright-wise, rock doesn’t roll like classical, and the law is about to change.
David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic 01/08/13
You’re going to hear sooner or later, and feel rather old when you do: The Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do,” is now in the public domain, at least in Europe.
How could that be? Though not the most durable Beatles song, it hardly seems to be from another time, though given the passage of 50 years, it most certainly is. Remember ’60s hysteria? The kids who wrote “Beatles” on their contact lenses because they couldn’t think about anything else? The girls who saved the Kleenex tissues into which they’d wept at the Shea Stadium concert?
Yet the music itself doesn’t feel Paleolithic. Though the world has been anything but stationary, pop music isn’t as disposable as it was once assumed to be – one reason why the laws are on the verge of changing. By November, the European Union will vote to extend the copyright on recordings from 50 to 70 years. It’s a potentially important moment in the world of art and commerce.
The “Love Me Do” news sprang across my screen on Friday from an unlikely source – the website Pristine Classical ( http://www.pristineclassical.com), which specializes in remastering old classical recordings and was protesting the impending change by offering a remastered “Love Me Do,” one of only two Beatles recordings (the other is “P.S. I Love You”) released in 1962 and thus in the public domain before the door slams shut again this year with the copyright extension.
For a business as small and niche-y as Pristine – old symphonic recordings by the likes of Wilhelm Furtwängler, Arturo Toscanini, and Eugene Ormandy – extended copyright may not be catastrophic news, but it ain’t good. Often, such indie labels are the only way these recordings will reach the public, considering that the major labels, for which these performances were originally recorded, have been bought and sold so many times that current owners often don’t know what their back classical catalog contains – and don’t care.
“Love Me Do” comes with a very different set of concerns. British rock star Cliff Richard, now 72, has been agitating for years to extend the copyright expiration date. Who thought that would be necessary (or that any rock star would live so long)? Like many pop-music movements, 1960s rock was a point of teenage rebellion – part of its appeal was that our parents hated it. Mine told me not to buy Beatles albums because I wouldn’t be listening to them a year later. They had a point: When rebellion is no longer necessary, is the music obsolete?