Have you heard about the new album from the Beatles? Sure, they broke up in 1970, but this month, Apple is set to release 59 previously unreleased tracks of bootleg recordings from the Fab Four on iTunes. Why? There’s an official “no comment” line from Apple, according to Mark Brown of the Guardian in “Beatles for sale: copyright laws force Apple to release 59 tracks.” But, as implied by Brown’s title, fans and reporters alike are speculating that the iTunes release is due to European Union copyright law.
So what is the law? Norwegian Beatles blogger Roger Stormo of WogBlog explained in his December 11, 2013, post, “Beatles bootleg recordings 1963 – a copyright scheme?” that in Europe, copyright is secured for a recording upon its release. That copyright lasts 70 years, due to a recent extension that passed in November 2013. However, “unreleased material becomes public domain 50 years from the time of recording,” Stormo continued.
In order for Universal or Apple (sources conflict on who has the rights) to keep the copyright on the recordings, which are being referred to as “The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963,” they have to release it for sale. Because they are doing so without fanfare, bloggers like Stormo suspect they didn’t want to release the recordings, but the law is forcing their hands.
The Beatles aren’t the only musicians to see a recent release of their music. Sony released a series of concerts, television and radio appearances, and outtakes from Bob Dylan’s 1963 performances. Called “The 50th Anniversary Edition: 1963,” the recordings were released as a limited edition set of six vinyl LPs. Only 100 were pressed. Sony did a similar thing with Dylan’s work in 2012, featuring 1962 recordings, and they subtitled the collection “The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol. 1.” Motown has also been publishing rare tracks under the “Motown Unreleased” banner.
Between 1962 and 1965, the Beatles recorded 275 performances for the BBC, and less than half of those have been previously released. So the “new” music from the Beatles’ early career now being released includes demo recordings, studio outtakes and live performances.
Are these going to be of interest to most Beatles listeners? According to New York Times contributor Allan Kozinn in his article “European copyright law leads to rare music releases,” posted December 11, 2013, “Like bootlegs — discs released illegally by collectors and entrepreneurs who have obtained material that has not been officially issued or approved — these are specialist items. They appeal mostly to devoted fans who know the commercial releases inside and out (and usually in both mono and stereo) but who want more.” Music students, in particular, might be interested in hearing the studio outtakes, because it shows the songs as works in progress rather than polished final products.
It’s also likely that the tracks will be available only for a limited period of time. So for Beatles fans who want to make sure they get all the insider info that’s available, keep watching iTunes for tracks including:
Live performances of:
- “I Saw Her Standing There”
- “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
- “Love Me Do”
- “You Really Got a Hold on Me”
Unused studio takes from:
- “There’s a Place”
- “A Taste of Honey”
- “Do You Want to Know a Secret”
Beatles demo versions of songs later released by other bands, including:
- “Bad to Me” (released by Billy Kramer and the Dakotas)
- “I’m in Love” (released by Merseybeat and the Fourmost)
Not yet to be released are the famous 28-minute version of “Helter Skelter” and the 1967 performance of “Carnival of Light.” But given the copyright laws, those could be released in the next few years.
For a more polished set of recordings, U.S. fans can keep an eye out for the huge 13 disc release of all the Beatles’ American albums, which will come out in January to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the band’s first American appearance.
What do you think about these bootleg releases? Tell us in the comments.