Vintage sound recordings

by Walter Olson on July 3, 2011

Many are lost in a copyright maze: “The American rules infuriate scholars, archivists, musicians and the conservationists who preserve fragile recordings. They fret that by the time the recordings become available, many will be beyond salvation.” [The Economist] “A Trove of Historic Jazz Recordings has Found a Home in Harlem, But You Can’t Hear Them” [Steven Seidenberg, ABA Journal]

{ 11 comments }

1 Bob Lipton 07.03.11 at 1:58 pm

The unavailability also causes these works to die as people who want to hear them and make them available to others die. There’s no one to say “Listen to this” because there’s nothing to listen to.

Bob

2 Dave 07.03.11 at 8:50 pm

Unless it’s older than ‘Steamboat Willie’, it’ll never go public domain in the U.S.

3 Bill Poser 07.04.11 at 1:33 am

And the legal premise underlying this problem is the completely insane belief that creators already dead will be stimulated by the extension of copyright.

4 Doug 07.04.11 at 7:10 am

Old time radio recordings of “The Great Gildersleave”, “The Jack Benny Show”, and etc are routinely bought and sold on the internet. Who knows who owns the copyright.

5 ps 07.04.11 at 10:09 am

14 years. No more. No less. Any lawmaker who thinks otherwise should be forced (as should their descendants) to listen to Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ until the sun goes out.

6 Richard 07.04.11 at 11:03 am

The Historical Recording Coalition for Access and Preservation (HRCAP) has some interesting notes about the preservation of historic recordings. Among other things, it may be hard to obtain funding for preservation that does not include public access to the results of the preservation efforts. Also, it is not always feasible for record companies to independently reissue historical recordings. (Among other things, there are historical recordings that would have to be obtained on the open market because the master recordings no longer exist.)

One issue that may make copyright difficult to deal with at times may be that of its complexity. In the writing “The Exclusive Right to Read,” law professor Jessica Litman has mentioned the situation where even multiple copyright experts have encountered difficulty when trying to figure out specifics of copyright. (In addition, efforts to educate the public about copyright have been less than successful; performance rights societies have attempted such educational efforts over many decades, according to Litman.)

7 James 07.05.11 at 10:28 am

Anybody who seriously thinks that the copyright balance between rightsholders and pirates is too tipped towards rightsholders these days clearly hasn’t looked at a typical teenager’s computer lately. yes, copyright as is has some absurdities, but there is a larger problem of widespread piracy both in the USA and beyond.

8 DensityDuck 07.05.11 at 11:46 am

Be aware that this is one of the expected outcomes of the decision in the Google case. If you say that copyright is so important that you can’t do anything unless and until the rightsholder gives permission, then you are ensuring that orphan works will die.

9 Richard Nieporent 07.05.11 at 12:47 pm

James, I would suggest that you actually read the post before you comment on it. This topic has absolutely nothing to do with piracy.

10 GregS 07.05.11 at 12:59 pm

James, somehow I doubt that the typical teenager’s computer is fill of pirated copies of hot jazz recordings from the 1920s, old Jack Benny radio shows, and the like. The real problem with piracy is with current, popular music and videos, not with the sort of orphaned works that this thread is discussing.

11 doug 07.06.11 at 7:49 am

this is more about whether a rights holder should have to actively assert the right or rather the listener should have to play hide and seek to find them. Finally, the Jazz recordings should have beed digitized and dumped all over the internet for all to enjoy.

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