Copyright Office Exploring Issue Over Pre-1972 Sound Recordings & Copyright

from the public-domain? dept

In the past, we've covered how pre-1972 sound recordings are not covered by federal copyright law, because Congress, back in 1909, felt that the Constitution did not allow copyright to cover sound recordings because such recordings did not qualify as "writings." Unfortunately, without federal copyright law, various states passed copyright laws which covered those works with protections that often far exceeded federal law. When federal copyright law was changed in 1976, sound recordings were then included but pre-1972 recordings were left under the old system. Because of that, many works that would, ordinarily, actually be getting close to entering the public domain are being held back, as the state copyright laws they're covered by will keep them locked up for many, many more years.

This topic has been getting a lot more interest lately, both in academia and with the discovery that certain works are being withheld from the public due to these issues. Apparently, all that attention has caught Congress' interest, and the Copyright Office has been asked to explore the issue of copyright on pre-1972 sound recordings. The Copyright Office is asking for people to weigh in on the subject (thanks to everyone who sent this in). I wouldn't be surprised to see the Copyright Office work out a way to retroactively put those works under federal copyright law -- and I doubt there would be too many people holding the copyright on, say, recordings from World War I, protesting. However, when it comes to copyright issues, it's hard to predict who will come out of the woodwork to complain... Of course, some would argue that the idea that any pre-1972 works are still covered by any copyright at all is a travesty.
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Filed Under: copyright, public domain, sound recordings

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  1. icon
    Richard (profile), 2 Nov 2010 @ 3:56am


    Of course, if there were no copyright the fund and release model would work perfectly well (see the recent musopen initiative on kickstarter).

    The problem is that fund and release faces unfair competition from the copyright lobby who insist on creating stuff at no cost to the public and then using sneaky laws to extort money afterwards.

    Thesde copyright addicts need to move into the real world and get their funding in place before they do the work.

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