The law initially sounds complicated, but it really isn’t.
For instance, with regard to a recording released on September 1, 1982, the effective date of termination can be any date from September 1, 2017 to August 31, 2022. Why? Because there is a five-year window of opportunity to served the termination, generally starting with the day of publication.
“Publication” means “distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.”
With regard to terminations, the publication does not have to have taken place in the United States. It can be publication anywhere. For instance, a German album released only in Germany can still be the subject of a notice ot termination for the United States copyright. The German publication date is the starting point.
After determining the publication date (which can be found in the copyright certificate, or, from the database located at www.copyright.gov. Or, if that information is not available, generally accurate dates might be found from sites such as Wikipedia or Discogs, but careful research should be done, if there is any doubt. The best evidence is always the copyright certificate; however, it can be rebutted if there is an important issue or mistake.
So, you have five years to send the termination – except, you don’t. Remember, there is a requirement of two years’ notice. So, the rule you always have to remember is:
35 + 5 – 2 = deadline.
That’s it. It’s that simple. So, let’s say your album was released on June 1, 1980. 35 years from that date is May 31, 2015. The five-year window closes on May 31, 2020. But, two-years’ notice means that your deadline is May 31, 2018. If you do not send a notice by that date, your right to terminate will be gone forever.
On the other end, how soon can you send the notice, for dates far into the future? The statute says “the notice shall be served not less than two or more than ten years before” the termination date. So, if your album was released in 1990, the first termination date would be in 2025, and ten years before that is 2015, so, yes, you can send the notice now. It is too early (as of this writing), to send notices for works that were released in 1994, because the effective date would be no earlier than 2029, less ten years is 2019, so nothing may be sent at the present time.
Here is a table of examples of how to compute the date: