May 23,2018

Press Contact:

Keith Chu (202) 224-4515

Wyden Introduces Bill to Provide Fairness for All Sound Recordings Including Introduction to the Public Domain

Washington, D.C. —Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today introduced the ACCESS to Recordings Act, to create uniform federal copyright rules for sound recordings published before 1972, and create equal treatment between older and newer works.

 Wyden’s the Accessibility for Curators, Creators, Educators, Scholars, and Society (ACCESS) to Recordings Act would extend federal copyright protections, including limitations and exceptions, to sound recordings created before 1972.  Currently, pre-1972 sound recordings are governed by state law which leads to uncertainty in certain areas, including the right for music streaming services and others to digitally transmit such recordings. 

 “Copyright reform for pre-1972 sound recordings must consider the interests of all stakeholders – not just those of the for-profit record labels,” said Senator Wyden.  “The ACCESS to Recordings Act, by applying the same term limits and rights and obligations that apply to other copyrighted works, would help preserve our cultural heritage and open up older works to rediscovery by scholars, creators and the public. I have serious concerns about the lengthy terms in current U.S. copyright law that tip the balance toward limiting rather than promoting creativity and innovation, but until Congress is willing to reconsider it, we shouldn’t go beyond those protections and provide unprecedented federal copyright term for sound recordings.”

Wyden’s ACCESS to Recordings Act represents an alternative to the House-passed CLASSICS Act, which is under consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  CLASSICS exacerbates uncertainty for artists, scholars and others by adding a new federal right on top of the current patchwork of state laws, while also providing copyright protections for up  to 144 years, 49 years longer than the current copyright term.

View the full bill text here.


The ACCESS to Recordings Act address the treatment of pre-1972 sound recordings.  Copyright reform that created rights in sound recordings in 1972 only did so on a prospective basis and provided that state law would be preempted in 2047, later extended to 2067.  Digital performance rights in sound recordings were added to federal protections in 1995.  CLASSICS provides a federal right to digital transmissions until 2067 for all works created after 1923, and would leave reproduction and distributions rights under state law. ACCESS to Recordings preempts state law over copyright protections for recordings completely and provides the full breadth of copyright protections as well as exceptions and limitations.  ACCESS to Recordings would also provide a term of protection of 95 years for published sound recordings – the same as for post-1972 recordings.