Copyright and publishing dates revisited

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Back in 2016, we had this discussion about copyright and phonographic copyright relationships. It was decided then that the dates should be static (i.e. the same year as the begin and end date) but beyond that, there is still some ambiguity (namely, what to do about relationships that change hands over time).
Here are a few proposed solutions:

  • Leave publishing relationships open-ended, so the date fields can be used to track when a company changed its name, got bought out, etc. (or as in the case with some older works, the copyright was transferred after the original expired). I’ve done this for years but have run into some resistance, which brings us to the following:
  • Use static dates for publishing relationships, and then list all of the subsequent/successor publishers somewhere else, e.g. on the release level (as I often do for copyright relationships). I don’t really like this idea, as with our current schema there’s no efficient way to track which publishing relationship belongs where.
  • Continually replace the names of publishers as they change over time. I’m especially not a fan of this, as it in my eyes is encouraging data loss in the name of efficiency.

Does anyone have any better ideas? I may turn this into a ticket if we can agree on some solutions.


I recall this discussion now, and no doubt triggered this new one by some edits I made to fix end dates on some of your edits. I’m definitely in the “single year” camp for several reasons:

  • That’s what is on the album art, almost always (occasionally a range, but only where it refers to several recordings or works with different dates).
  • Leaving the end date open assumes the relationship is no longer “published on” but is “has copyright protection for”, and that’s not how I think this relatinoship is intended (similar arguments for (P) ).
  • The idea of updating label names is unworkable, I think. The label name that appears (may be a publisher) is the one active when the corresponding recording or release was made. It often changes over time, and simply adding in those additional relationships when new releases come out seems to be the simplest way to handle it.

Having done research with old music publishing companies, I know about the transference of published works from one company to another when things get bought out. I think that it would be valuable information to properly document the various publishers that have published works over the years, but that this should be restricted to the Works page. On the Releases page, I believe that the release itself should reflect what’s on the artwork at the time that it was released.

This would give us the opportunity to have a list of publishers affiliated with a certain work in the works page and could feature the dates as well, if they are known.


The main problem with that is how we are to enter/display that data. The only way I can think to do it is similar to what Discogs does: a line-item list of publishers with an annotation telling what tracks/works they go on. IMO this is bulky, messy and easy to get confused since the editing system automatically sorts entities’ names in alphabetical order (on Discogs they can be sorted in order of appearance).

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This is why recordings weren’t included in the original RFC.

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