The Grammy In Mathematics... Or Copyright Infringement?

from the you-decided dept

Slashdot points us to the absolutely fascinating story of how Woody Guthrie's daughter was able to restore the only recording of her father's live performance, that had been bootlegged using an old obsolete recording device. It took quite a bit of effort to restore the recording on an old wire-based device, and the effort got the mathematician who handled the restoration nominated for a Grammy, which he won. However, what struck me most about the story is that these days, people would be focused on how that simple act of recording would have been copyright infringement back when it occurred. Shouldn't we be happy that exactly that kind of infringement is now what allows us to hear Guthrie perform live? I'm sure Guthrie himself would agree. After all, he famously had a rather similar view of copyrights to many of us around here: "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do." Unfortunately, those who manage Guthrie's estate haven't always been so kind -- so it's nice to see they recognized this recording as a potential gem, rather than an unauthorized recording.
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Filed Under: bootlegs, copyright, grammy, restoration, woody guthrie


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2008 @ 4:39pm

    Copyright in "unfixed" works

    In the US, Federal copyright has "occupied the field" for fixed works but state/common law still governs copyright in unfixed works. It's not technically correct to say that there is no copyright in an unfixed work. Rather, it varies from state to state whether there can be copyright in an unfixed work.

    So, contrary to Mark's advice, you are not necessarily permitted to record musicians in the park.

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