On Tuesday, 59 previously unreleased recordings from The Beatles became available on iTunes in a special collection titled The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963. But it’s not because the surviving bandmates or their record label are being exceptionally generous.
The tracks, which include demos, studio outtakes and live BBC recordings, were all set to tape around the band’s transitional period surrounding the release of 1963’s Please Please Me. According to European Union copyright law, unreleased recordings are protected for 50 years, while released music is covered for 70 years. That means these 59 previously unreleased tracks (recorded 50 years ago) would have gone into the public domain in 2014, and other labels would theoretically have been able to release them for profit. Hence, their release this week on iTunes keeps them under their current copyright for a bit longer.
To make things a bit more confusing…this law only applies to the recordings of the songs. The songs themselves remain covered by copyright for 70 years after the death of the songwriter(s). So even if rival labels picked up the bootleg recordings, there would still be the matter of making sure they had permission to use the actual songs.
Whatever the legal reasons, the new bootleg collection is a boon for Beatles music collectors. No word on whether the album will be available in hard-copy format.