Legal experts debate over Taylor Swift's option to re-record old songs
Washington: The controversy over pop singer Taylor Swift`s Tumblr post and her feud with Scooter Braun has stirred varied reactions in the music fraternity. According to The Hollywood Reporter, several legal experts have started a debate on whether the singer can remaster her six albums that are sold to Scooter Braun or not.
Swift`s friend Kelly Clarkson who tweeted over the last weekend had a suggestion that the `Love Story` singer could take back some real estate in the skirmish by going back to "re-record all the songs that U don`t own the masters on exactly how U did them but put brand new art & some kind of incentive so fans will no longer buy the old versions."
Clarkson also promised to buy all the Swift songs just to "prove a point."This will not be the first time that an artist has tried that tactic in a battle overmasters. Both pop-singers Def Leppard and JoJo went down that road, with the English rockers re-recording their hits like `Pour Some Sugar on Me,` `Hysteria` and `Rock of Ages` in 2012 in an effort to wrestle "control of our career back" from the Universal Music Group, which singer Joe Elliott said at the time was a negotiating tactic with their former label to obtain a new compensation agreement with more favourable terms.
JoJo re-recorded her debut album `The High Road` in 2018 after a protracted battle with her former label, Blackground Records, which had not made the self-titled work available on streaming services. Billboard also reached out to music industry lawyers (none of whom are affiliated with either side in the Swift issue and were speaking in general legal terms) to find out if the option of re-recording the entire album by the singer is a potential next chess move.
Brian Caplan, an intellectual property lawyer at the New York firm Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt LLC tells Billboard: "You become a competitor of your record label if you re-record and own new master recordings from the same compositions. If you have the weight of a Taylor Swift that`s one thing, because you might be able to convince a portion of the community to come to you for older [songs]."Continuing, he said, "But a lot of people don`t have the wherewithal to start a business and become a competitor with their old label... [however] you will cut into income streams from the [old] label, you will make more money because you`ll own it and won`t have to give a piece to the label that they`re entitled to under the old contract."
The lawyer says that standard recording agreements have a re-recording restriction that forbids an artist from re-making a song that was previously delivered to the record company.
Another senior lawyer Ken Abdo doesn`t have first-hand knowledge of the contract signed by Swift when she began her career at age 15 with Big Machine in 2006. But he tells Billboard he`d be "shocked" if that kind of 3-5 year restriction was not in that contract, or if she was able to "renegotiate that re-record restriction entirely away".
Because, after all, the primary asset that a record company has is the intellectual property that an artist creates for them: the master recording.