Amoeba Records Deals With Orphan Works By Pretending It Can Just Digitize & Sell Now, But Pay Later
from the not-quite-how-it-works dept
Glenn Fleishman has a typically fantastic post over at BoingBoing in which he discusses how the famed Amoeba Records chain has launched Vinyl Vaults, an online store for digitized music from vinyl records, available exclusively via the store. Amoeba, for those who don’t know, is something of a mecca for music fans. I used to spend hours there buying CDs… until Amazon, CDBaby and the like just made it much easier for me to buy CDs (and eventually MP3s) online. I had no idea, but apparently Amoeba spent six years and $11 million building this online store. That seems like an awful lot. But here’s the thing: it appears that the store is basically one giant case of copyright infringement, as Fleishman describes in detail.
Basically, Amoeba decided that if it couldn’t find the copyright holder, it would just hold money for them in escrow, and be willing to hand it over should they ever come calling. And, while this might seem like a viable plan in a world that made some sense, it’s not what the law allows. At all. Fleishman explores all of the legal nuances (including the fun stuff about how pre-1972 sound recordings are under wacky state copyright laws that have different rules, and won’t go into the public domain for much longer than other works). Here’s a snippet of the piece:
Where does this leave Amoeba? It seems to be standing on the notion that orphaned works are up for grabs so long as you pay out the owners’ cut later when it’s claimed. Orphaned works are creations for which no clear knowledge of ownership exists. But there’s no provision in U.S. law for how to deal with orphaned works of any kind, music or otherwise. A proposal from 2006 was languishing at the Copyright Office, as it requires Congress to take it up (ha) to establish a clear procedure in law.
Go read the whole thing. It’s yet another example of how copyright law makes no sense to most people.