By: Ray Hidalgo
The times have literally changed Bob Dylan’s legacy now that his self-titled 1962 debut album has become part of European public domain. With the prospect of copyright protection for Dylan’s early work expiring, Sony Music proactively released The 50th Anniversary Collection featuring 86 of Dylan’s recordings from and prior to 1963, just before January 1, 2013.
While fans may perceive the packaging of the album to be almost ‘bootleg’ in nature, the draw of the collection is immense. According to the New York Times, the release is currently a bank-breaking eBay bid exceeding $1000 for American fans who want to get their hands on the album, as Sony Music only released 100 copies for distribution, restricted to Europe.
It also effectively brings every song in the collection back into the fold of copyrighted music; a calculated feat by Sony to prolong the retail shelf-life of Dylan’s music by 20 years for our friends across the pond.
Essentially, were any of Dylan’s record labels to repackage his albums for marketable distribution within 50 years of their original release they would enter the realm of free circulation. However, The 50th Anniversary Collection was released just shy of the 50-year mark, dashing any hopes for fans of free music. In addition, American law’s timeframe of eligibility for public domain for music is 70 years after the artist’s death (it could be a while).
“This isn’t a scheme to make money,” a Sony Music source told Rolling Stone. "The whole point of copyrighting [this material] is that we intend to do something with it at some point in the future.”
Some highlights of the four-disc set include several tracks from Dylan’s sophomore studio album Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, a live set from the Finjan Club in Montreal, seven (fitting) takes of "Mixed Up Confusion", and various outtakes that diehard Dylan fans will devour.
“This isn’t every shred,” the Sony Music source continued. “But these are all fully realized songs and the kind of things fans would enjoy.”
Given the album’s subtitle, The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol. 1, the music might be the only thing that some fans enjoy.
For more on this story, head to Rolling Stone here or the New York Times here.