Sunday, May 16, 2021

Anita Baker Calls on Fans to Stop Buying Her Music Amid Battle for Masters

Anita Baker
LOS ANGELES – CIRCA 1995: Singer Anita Baker poses for a portrait circa 1995 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images)

*Anita Baker is asking fans to stop buying and streaming her music while she fights to reclaim ownership of her masters. 

She wrote on Twitter that she has “outlived” all of her record contracts, and noted that a U.S. copyright law (Section 203) states that record labels are required “by law” to return the master recordings to artists after 30 years. 

“They no longer ‘Own’ My Name & Likeness,” Baker tweeted. “And, by Law…30 yr old, Mstrs are 2B Returned, 2 Me.”

According to Section 203 of the Copyright Act, 35 years after an author/artist signs away the rights to a copyrighted work, they can file a request to legally take back ownership of it. 

READ MORE: Anita Baker on the Pain Caused From Discovering Her Mom Gave Her Up for Adoption

Here’s more from VICE

Unfortunately for Baker, most of her music hasn’t been out long enough for her to use Section 203 to reclaim it. Six of her seven albums came out less than 35 years ago.

That said, Baker’s first album, The Songstress, came out 37 years ago; she should be able file a claim for the master rights to it right now. And she should be able to do the same with her second album, Rapture, once it turns 35 next year. 

Even still, Section 203 contains an exception that could make things difficult for her. It doesn’t apply to music created under “work-for-hire” contracts, which were ubiquitous back when Baker signed record deals with Beverly Glen (which released The Songstress) and Elektra (which released Rapture) in the 1980s. These contracts essentially state that artists are de-facto employees of a label, whose music becomes company property the second it’s recorded. 

Baker’s request that Warner Music Group hand over her master recordings could turn out to be a long messy battle.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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