The brief release may have been an attempt by ABKCO Music & Records to extend their copyright to the recordings in the European Union.
Just hours before the start of the new decade, a collection of rare Rolling Stones recordings from 1969 were posted to a suspicious YouTube account titled 69RSTRAX -- only to be made private the following day. Though Billboard has yet to confirm the origins of the account, the footage dump may be the work of ABKCO Music & Records, which administers the copyrights to the band’s 1960s catalog and was set to lose their hold on those copyrights in the European Union (EU) starting Jan. 1 -- unless the company made the recordings publicly available prior to that date.
As first reported by Variety, all of the recordings posted to YouTube -- which consisted of low-quality live concert footage and alternate versions of tracks from the Stones albums Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers -- turned 50 years old in 2019. That meant ABKCO would have lost those copyrights at the turn of 2020 under EU copyright law, which protects sound recording copyrights for 50 years after the recordings are created but only allows a 20-year extension (for a total of 70 years) if those works are “lawfully communicated to the public” at any time during that initial 50-year period.
Artists and songwriters also have the option of issuing a notice of termination if the rights holder (often a record label) fails to exploit a recording within that 50-year timeframe, at which point they’re given a year to exploit the material and extend the copyright for themselves. Otherwise, the recordings in question go into the public domain.