Exclusive: Tennessee Introduces Legislation to Protect all Pre-1972 'Oldies' Recordings

Lawmakers in Tennessee will now vote on whether to extend copyright protection to pre-1972 sound recordings.

Federal copyright law in the United States currently protects sound recordings released on or after February 15th, 1972.  Unfortunately, only a handful states actually protect pre-1972 tracks, and even then, they have widely differing local rules.

Florida’s Supreme Court, for example, recently decided that oldies shouldn’t enjoy copyright protection.  They belong in the public domain.  In California, to avoid a potentially costly defeat, SiriusXM settled with The Turtles’ Flo & Eddie.  A California judge had previously ruled against the digital broadcaster’s favor, while a judge in Florida ruled for SiriusXM.  The New York State Court Appeals also sided with the digital broadcaster.

Now, the Tennessee General Assembly will vote on whether to provide protection to ‘oldies’ sound recordings.

Introduced on Wednesday, House Bill 1603 aims to amend state law to extend copyright protection to pre-1972 recordings.  Dubbed the “Legacy Sound Recording Protection Act,” a short summary leaked from the Tennessee General Assembly reads,

The bill aims to amend Tennessee Code Annotated Title 29 to add the following terms.


These are material objects in which a work is fixed and from which any work can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated.

“Digital transmission”

A transmission as a whole or in part in a digital, or non-analog, format.


A permanent or stable tangible medium expression perceived, reproduced, or communicated for more than a transitory duration.  A work consisting transmitted sounds constitutes as ‘fixed.’


Recite, render, play, dance, or act either directly or through any device or process.


Material objects that fix sounds, and from which sounds can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated.  This includes current objects and those later developed.  It also includes the material object that first fixes the sounds.


At a place open to the public or any public gathering outside family members and/or social acquaintances gather.  It also means communicated to a place, where members the public can receive the sound recording.  In addition, this applies to separate places at the same time or at different times.

“Sound recording”

A work that results from the fixation a series musical, spoken, or other sounds.


Means to communicate by means a known or future device or process, where sounds are received beyond the place from which sounds are sent.

Copyright owners sound recordings on or before February 15th, 1972, would also have the exclusive right to:

If passed, HB1603 would also create a civil cause action ‘oldies’ copyright owners.  This creates a penalty for people or legal entities that perform the actions previously described without the owner’s express permission.  However, this doesn’t apply if used for a library or archives under the following conditions:

You can read the draft version the Legacy Sound Recording Protection Act below.


Featured image in the Public Domain