June 26, 2019 / 2:56 PM

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Copyright Law May Allow Taylor Swift, Prince et al to Pull Covers from Spotify and Streaming Services As Well


Taylor Swift made headlines during the end of 2014 by pulling her catalogue from Spotify, preventing listeners from checking out her sick beats without shelling out for the song or album 1989. She's not the only one who's keeping their wares off of the streaming service and others like it...The Beatles and Apple Records have yet to release the band's discography to the service. Yet many fans know a loophole, if they're willing to ignore subtle differences in quality: There are covers of the songs on Spotify, performed by bands aiming to sound exactly like The Beatles. Perhaps not for long however, as the U.S. Copyright Office is looking to allow performers to prevent covers of their work from being streamed as well (from The Hollywood Reporter). 

That would allow more aggressive acts such as Swift to keep pesky cover artists off of streaming services. But more notably, it would allow the original songwriters to stop more mainstream acts from presenting notable covers as well. For example, Leonard Cohen could (theoretically) prevent Jeff Buckley's page from streaming his well-regarded rendition of "Hallelujah." Prince, who offers most of his catalogue on Spotify, has shown notable distaste for others using his work in the past, and could now block it. 

The odd thing is that the Copyright Office believes this ability could be offered to performers to use against streaming services, but not against other formats such as physical recordings and live performances (and perhaps not even against internet radio services such as Pandora). Expect Spotify and performers with proper licensure to challenge the new legislation if it comes to pass. For now, here's some logic from the Copyright Office: 

"With respect to cover recordings, the Office recommends an approach whereby those who seek to re-record songs could still obtain a license to do so, including in physical formats," reads the text. "But the dissemination of such recordings for interactive new media uses, as well as in the form of downloads, would be subject to the publisher's ability to opt out of the compulsory regime."

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