by David Schulman*
Prior to 2018, copyright law did not require payment of royalties for sound recordings to pre-1972 artists (or the respective copyright owner), creating a massive pay disparity between pre-1972 artists and contemporary artists who had a statutory right to receive those royalties. In 2018, Congress enacted the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society (“CLASSICS”) Act to remedy this gap in protections and payments between legacy and contemporary artists. Essentially, the CLASSICS Act ensures that pre-1972 artists are afforded copyright-like protections and liberties in line with what their contemporary peers have enjoyed for years. The question yet to be resolved is whether the Act should apply retroactively. Retroactive application of a new legal right implicates due process rights given that vested interests, particularly in previously negotiated contracts, may be negatively impacted. This Contribution argues that the CLASSICS Act should apply retroactively given its purpose and status as economic legislation. Moreover, retroactive application of the CLASSICS Act would not violate due process rights notwithstanding potential adverse effects on reliance interests because the Act meets the requisite rational basis test.