Journal of Intellectual Property Law


Many artists believe that their significance, power, or notoriety comes from how many GRAMMY awards they have won or how well their albums sales do the first week. However, very few artists recognize that the true power comes in the form of owning the rights to their master recordings. Given how difficult it is to achieve commercial success as an independent artist, many artists will turn to major record companies to help with their music production and distribution. This help, however, is not unconditional. The artist will sign over the master recording rights to the song or album to the record company to support the artist's album. Whoever owns the rights to a master recording is free to appropriate and license the recording to third parties for large sums of money and exclude others from using the recording without authorization. Many artists are prohibited from creating their masters by re-recording their previous works through re-recording clauses. Singer Taylor Swift was subject to such a clause and had to wait until its expiration before deciding to re-record her entire catalog, to the dismay of music executive Scooter Braun. Looking through the lens of copyright law, with a purview of state contract law, this note analyzes how re-recording clauses affect artist innovation and asserts that the contract provisions should be considered void ab initio due to their negative impact on society.