Bob Dylan has a new album out, but you’re not supposed to listen to it.
Sony Music has released a box set of demos by the artist, entitled The 50th Anniversary Collection: The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol 1. With only 100 units available, the ultra exclusive release isn’t intended to make money … at least not right now.
Rather, the label has put these previously unreleased early tracks to plastic to exploit a loophole in Europe’s copyright laws, and avoid having the music enter the public domain.
Under current European copyright law, music is protected for just 50 years, compared to 70 years after the death of the author for work published after 1978 in the United States. With a law passed in 2011 to be put into action in 2014, however, the term in Europe will be extended to 70 years.
The catch is that the European copyright extension is use-it-or-lose-it. Music must be published before the 50-year term expires, or it won’t get the extra 20 years. In regards to the unreleased Dylan tracks, that means that if the label hadn’t published them, their copyright term would end 50 years after their creation, and Dylan himself would be eligible to claim copyright. The new album, produced only in Germany, France, Sweden, and Britain, ensures that Sony will control the unreleased tracks well into the future.
According to Sony, they plan on exploiting the renewed copyright at some undetermined point in the future. “The whole point of copyrighting this stuff is that we intend to do something with it at some point in the future,” a Sony representative told Rolling Stone. “But it wasn’t the right time to do it right after he released Tempest. There are other things we want to do in 2013 though.”