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
    stander, 12 Feb 2008 @ 7:23pm

    innocent

    from the summary:
    "restore the only recording of her father's live performance, that had been bootlegged"

    That's a tazing

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Mathew Ingram, 12 Feb 2008 @ 9:09pm

    I came across that one too -- fascinating work. The ironic thing is that I listened to both of the tracks, before and after the work that the restorers did, and I actually liked the original better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2008 @ 9:56pm

    Re:

    I'm that way sometimes about old recordings as well. Sometimes it seems the quality of the recording, though subpar by today's standards, actually ADDS to the value of the song. Hell, sometimes I drop the bass on my equalizer for some songs so that it sounds like I'm playing it on an old stereo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Mark, 12 Feb 2008 @ 10:44pm

    Recording a live performance is not copyright infr

    Sorry, but a work is only granted copyright when it is "fixed". In fact, the person who originally made the recording is the person who owned the copyright on it, not Woody Guthrie.

    Most live performances today come with a 'no recording devices' rule, but the power to prevent recording is contract law. I.e. It is a condition of entry to the venue. Nothing to do with copyright.

    So if you come across a live performance in a public park, for example, you're perfectly free to record it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    ChurchHatesTucker, 13 Feb 2008 @ 5:40am

    Wire recordings are killing music.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2008 @ 5:43am

    Re: Recording a live performance is not copyright

    Is that based on what your pothead Phishhead friends told you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Jeffry Houser (profile), 13 Feb 2008 @ 5:57am

    There are two elements to copyright in this case..

    There are two aspects to copyright in this case. Copyright of the songs and copyright of the recording. They are different.

    It seems likely that Woody Guthrie owns the copyright to the songs; but the bootlegger owns the copyright to the recording. The worst "crime" the bootlegger could be responsible for was breach of contract; which was made with the artists + venue when he bought the ticket.

    Mark, mentioned copyright was not granted until it was fixed. Although possible, it seems unlikely to me that this bootleg was the first time any of these songs put into a fixed format. And even if that were the case, I highly doubt that the bootlegger could lay any claim to the songs. For example, when a band goes into the studio to record songs the recording engineer does not walk out of there with copyright credit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Stephen Foskett, 13 Feb 2008 @ 7:00am

    The seminal 1969 live album by the Velvet Underground was recorded in similarly murky circumstances and yielded similarly fantastic results. Neither of these important musical recordings should and would exist if not for the love of the fans of the music. That alone makes me stand up and cheer!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    ehrichweiss, 13 Feb 2008 @ 7:44am

    Re: Re: Recording a live performance is not copyri

    No, that's just the law here in the U.S. and apparently more indepth than you're going to grasp so I'll just let you be the troll you are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    ehrichweiss, 13 Feb 2008 @ 7:51am

    Re: There are two elements to copyright in this ca

    The bootlegger doesn't own the songs, just the recording thereof. If the artist found out about the bootlegs and seized them, they actually could not then sell or distribute them without the bootlegger's permission. Ironic but I've seen it in action when bands break up, bitterly.

    Your assertion about the engineer is true however engineers are under contract to make the recording for the artists and the contract then implies copyright will be handed over to the artist.

    IANAL but I have enough experience that I could claim I slept at Holiday Inn or something..;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 13 Feb 2008 @ 8:21am

    Shocked

    I am shocked that the RIAA didn't assinate the mathemitician before he finished and burn the recording.

    Not far off from their current level of ethics ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Emily, 13 Feb 2008 @ 12:41pm

    It just goes to show...

    It's only copyright infringement if the accuser can't make money off of it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Ace Rimmer, 13 Feb 2008 @ 10:05pm

    But

    none of the comments here actually give the credit to the Guthrie estate for not stopping the recording from being released... I applaude them for this

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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