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The Copyright Revision Act of 1976 (which became effective on January 1, 1978) included a clause that allowed artists & songwriters to reclaim their copyrights from the publishers & labels they transferred the rights to. This means any song created in or after 1978 is eligible for reversion either 35 years from publication or 40 years from the date of assignment of copyright to a publisher.

For example: a song published in 1980 has the termination window of 2015-2020. If they want the copyright to revert back to them in 2016, the notice must be filed between 2006 and 2014.

This has the potential to completely change the music industry. However, it’s too soon to tell.

While albums released in 1978 are the first batch eligible for possible reversion of ownership to pass from labels back to the artists, so far the only acts to file notice of termination for master right recordings with the U.S. copyright Office include Pat Bentar, Journey, Devo and Billy Joel.

Although 2013 theoretically is the year that master sound recordings’ copyright licenses begin to expire for albums and can revert from labels to the artists, no one is sure what exactly will happen.