Last year, the Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan all surprised fans with quiet releases of previously unissued material. The reason: To protect expiring copyrights overseas.
In Europe, copyright on artistic works expires 50 years after its creation, unless its "published." That means all studio outtakes and live recordings by these artists circulating via bootleg become public domain and can be "officially" released by anyone. Unless the artists establish copyright by releasing the recording themselves.
The deadline for such artist releases is Dec. 31 of each year.
Last year, Dylan went the route of protecting his 1963 recordings by releasing a CD collection limited to just 100 copies. Word is that will happen again this year, with 1,000 copies of a vinyl compilation of 1964 material slated for release in Europe only.
The Beatles, meanwhile, put out nearly 60 tracks on iTunes as the Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963 without any public announcement. Word is that also will be happening again.
And the Beach Boys today announced release of outtakes on iTunes in a 46-song compilation called Keep an Eye on Summer. A live performance, Live in Sacramento 1964, is also now up on iTunes. The Big Beat 1963, a download-only release last year, included some of the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson's unprotected 1963 recordings.
There are complete details and liner notes of the Beach Boys 1964 collections on their official site. It's notable that the band sees this as an official release, not just a copyright maneuver, and some real thought seems to have gone into it. Along with outtakes, there are new mixes of several classic tunes and montages of session tapes.
I can only find tiny pics of the Beach Boys comps at the moment. Stay tuned for news about Bob and the Beatles as it develops.