Rare Lou Reed Demos Released by RCA in Copyright-Extending Move, and Then Quickly Withdrawn

A 17-track album of demos recorded by Lou Reed titled “I’m So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos” was briefly released by RCA/ Sony Music on iTunes in Europe over the holiday in an apparent “copyright dump” to extend the company’s’ ownership of the recordings. The album, which was not available in the U.S., was posted on iTunes beginning on Dec. 23 but removed a couple of days later.

“I’m So Free” includes rough versions of nearly every song from Reed’s self-titled 1972 debut solo album and his breakthrough follow-up, “Transformer” — several of which he originally wrote and recorded with the Velvet Underground — although two tracks, “Kill Your Sons” and “She’s My Best Friend,” were not officially released until his 1976 album “Coney Island Baby.” The recordings, which also include songs like “Perfect Day,” “I’m Sticking With You,” “Berlin,” “Ocean” “Ride Into the Sun” and others, appear to be acoustic demos that have been making the rounds for several years; the full track list, as posted on iTunes, appears below.

Such blink-and-you-miss-it copyright-extension releases have become common as many songs from the rock era pass the 50 th anniversary of their recording: While the laws are not completely clear, in the European Union, sound recordings are protected for 50 years after they are recorded, and can be extended to 70 years as long as they are “lawfully communicated to the public” — i.e. officially released in some form — within the first 50 years (even into the last hours of the 50th year).

Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Motown Records and others have stealthily issued copyright-extending outtake collections for a brief time period (or on ridiculously limited-edition CDs with minimal packaging) before quickly yanking them off the market — hence the release of albums like the Beatles’ “Bootleg Recordings 1963” and Dylan’s even more literally titled “Copyright Collections.” Two years ago, Abkco, which controls the rights to the Rolling Stones’ 1960s recordings, posted dozens of rare Stones tracks on YouTube (albeit with an ugly dial-tone-like sound obscuring the rarest recordings) on Dec. 31, 2019 — the very end of the 50-year term recognized by the E.U. — for approximately 24 hours before shifting them from a public setting to a private, invite-only one.

Such recordings are usually sub-par and of interest only to deeply committed fans, and while the artist may not want them to be part of their official catalog, they also don’t want to lose the copyright and thus allow others to reap the profits from their work, hence the under-the-radar releases.

  1. Perfect Day (Demo – Takes 1 & 2)
  2. I’m So Free (Demo)
  3. Wild Child (Demo)
  4. I’m Sticking with You (Demo – Take 2)
  5. Lisa Says (Demo)
  6. Going Down (Demo – Take 2)
  7. I Love You (Demo)
  8. New York Telephone Conversation (Demo)
  9. She’s My Best Friend (Demo)
  10. Kill Your Sons (Demo)
  11. Berlin (Demo)
  12. Ocean (Demo – Takes 1 & 2)
  13. Ride Into the Sun (Demo – Take 2)
  14. Hangin’ Around (Demo – Take 2)
  15. Love Makes You Feel (Demo – Take 2)
  16. I Can’t Stand It (Demo)
  17. Walk It And Talk It (Demo)

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