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January 1, 2005

Differential (c) Terms and the Market [5:26 pm]

A Year When Classical Labels Came Through

For example, in early January of 2003 there was an article in this newspaper about the looming expirations of copyright protections in Europe for countless classic recordings from the 1950’s. In the United States such copyrights last 90 years, at least for now, while advocates for public domain access and defenders of the rights of production companies continue to slug it out in the courts. But in Europe, copyrights for recordings expire after 50 years. This means that starting now and during the next decade landmark 1950’s recordings by artists ranging from Maria Callas to Elvis Presley are coming into the public domain in Europe. Since American retailers routinely stock imported European records, especially classical albums, such releases are already showing up in the stores.

This looming crisis particularly rattled EMI Classics, the London-based company, the house of Callas, who made her first recordings for the company in 1953 and remained an EMI artist. Sales of Callas recordings, always impressive, show no signs of slipping.

EMI realized that the only way to maintain primacy in the Callas market, and with other classical artists from the 1950’s, was to make the recordings available in budget format while assuring the highest audio quality. The company came through for consumers in 2004.

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