According to TechDirt and the Hollywood Reporter, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson has ruled in favor of CBS. The radio giant had argued that the suit brought to them by ABS over fees due for recordings made before the 1972 reworking of copyright laws. CBS retorted with the consequence laden argument that they were broadcasting new, remastered versions – the original analog recordings were not being used and therefore these specific works aren’t protected under state law and CBS doesn’t have to pay for the rights to use them.
ABS (and many others who joined the case) argued that the tweaks made to the recording during a remastering process were merely “mechanical” and did not sufficiently alter the original enough to be considered for it’s own copyright. Furthermore, the plaintiffs asserted that to accept this would leave owners of pre-1972 sound recordings (many of which, ironically are owned by CBS itself) would be left unprotected.
Judge Anderson took into consideration the expertise of CBS’ Dr. Durand Begault, an acoustic engineer, who found that the remastered versions “have undergone sufficient changes during the remastering process to quality for federal copyright protection,” adding that ABS hasn’t offered sufficient evidence to even make this contestable point for a jury to decide.
Additionally, Anderson pointed to an example brought up by Dr Begault in the form of Ace Cannon’s 1961 recording “Tuff,” in which Dr. Begault described and pointed additional reverberation, a faster tempo and a different musical key as proof of work that was not merely “mechanical changes or processes… such as a change in format, de-clicking and noise reduction,” nor were the changes “trivial.”
ABS had also set to argue that the sound recordings from pre-1972 would be left unprotected if these recordings were not recognized as “pre-existing work” for a later derivative work, however the judge found this to be wholly unpersuasive.
Essentially, remastered versions of pre-1972 copyrighted material now enjoys independent copyrightability.
You can read the whole suit and judgement below: