Universal Music Donates Master Recordings To Library Of Congress... But Keeps The Copyright

from the so-what-good-is-that? dept

charliebrown was the first of a few of you to send in the recent news of how Universal Music had decided to donate over 200,000 master recordings to the Library of Congress:
The American people, through the nation's library, will receive a post-holiday gift of vintage sound recordings from one of the world's largest recording companies. The Library of Congress and the Universal Music Group (UMG) announced today the donation of more than 200,000 historic master recordings--many long out-of-print or never released--to the Library's Recorded Sound Section, which has more than 3 million sound recordings in its collections.

Totaling in excess of 5,000 linear feet, UMG's gift is the largest single donation ever received by the Library's audio-visual division and the first major collection of studio master materials ever obtained by the nation's oldest cultural institution. Among the collection’s thousands of metal and lacquer discs and master mono tapes are released and unreleased versions of recordings by such seminal artists as Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Tommy Dorsey, Billie Holiday, the Andrews Sisters, Connee Boswell, Jimmy Dorsey, the Mills Brothers, Guy Lombardo, Ella Fitzgerald, Fred Waring, Judy Garland, and Dinah Washington, among others.
All of that sounds nice and surprisingly altruistic from an operation like Universal Music... until you read the fine print. That's because missing from the LoC's excited announcement is the fact that Universal Music retains the copyright on the recordings, and is basically just handing off the physical archival costs to the American taxpayer. It will let the LoC stream the music -- which is better than nothing, but it's not nearly as impressive as actually donating the copyrights as well.


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  1.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 6:22am

    Wow.

    In the wake up America's financial woes, what I really want to do is spend my tax money to save some bucks for Universal. Right. Yeah. Great.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 7:21am

    So wait, they donate the original recordings, allow the LoC to stream the material for free, and they are somehow bad people for doing it?

    It isn't better than nothing, it makes a huge number of original recordings available to the world for free. Why is there a problem here?

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 7:31am

    Re:

    Not really a problem except that they tend to bury the reality of what they are doing in the details.

    For one, they are getting a lot of credit for "donating" these works when in fact no transfer of copyright is taking place. They still "own" the works by any definition out there. You can guarantee this "donation" will be brought up by IP defenders on a regular basis - but in fact it's not a really a donation at all

    Moreover, restoring and preserving these works costs a lot of money - and UMG refuses to do it. They get tonnes of flak from art historians and society in general for letting this stuff deteriorate. Now the taxpayers will be footing the restoration bill, but UMG is still able to commercially exploit the works whenever and however they want. Basically the Library of Congress is paying to fix a private company's damaged merchandise.

    Given that under copyright law when they were made, many of these works would be in the public domain now anyway but aren't due to retroactive extensions, I would definitely consider this a "better than nothing" situation.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 7:35am

    Re:

    It's also worth noting that there's "free" and then there's "free". Sure, this makes a bunch of new recordings available as streams from a single location. That's cool, but a little behind the times no?

    What about people who want this stuff on their iPod? What about filmmakers who want to use this music in their movies? What about other online music services that want to add these songs to their own libraries? What about DJs and producers who want to sample them and remix them into brand new tracks?

    All of those things are still controlled by UMG. These recordings have not been made free, only one highly limited point of access to them has been made free.

     

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    The eejit (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 7:37am

    Re:

    Marcus explained it better than me, but it comes down to passing costs on, rather than taking the hit themselves.

    Otherwise, we at TD would be celebrating the fact that UMG was making these works public domain, which would be a massive step forwards.

     

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    johnjac (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 7:42am

    Re: Wow.

    Yeah, I'm sure many private institutions, or maybe even Google would have been willing to do this, if Universal were willing to release these works into the Public Domain.

    Instead Universal dumped the work on to the tax payer.

    Really, why is this seen a generous act by Universal? What did it cost them?

     

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    wallow-T, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 7:45am

    I view getting the masters under proper custodial care, where (hopefully!) corporate budget considerations won't dictate that they be allowed to rot away or be purposely destroyed, as a win. Lots of this stuff is culturally important. Yes, there are still copyright and access considerations, but at least the source material will get preserved.

    For a comparison for how things might have gone differently, look at the enormous number of lost films from the silent era. Or, BBC's intentional destruction of most of the early Doctor Who archives just shortly before the show really caught fire in America, to save on storage costs.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 7:47am

    From the point of view of preserving the masters it is a good thing.
    From the point of view of universal who are just shifting the costs onto the taxpayer it's definitely a win but distinctly lacking in class.

     

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    John Duncan Yoyo, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 7:48am

    Re: Re: Wow.

    What it just gave them to someone else to curate on the US Tax payers buck.

    Anything that gets unearthed here should be released by Universal with the Smithsonian getting a really healthy cut of Universals profits as a finders fee. With Sarbanes-Oxley type of accounting rules strictly enforced.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re:

    You are confusing "public domain" with "restore masters". Putting something in the public domain wouldn't mean anyone would get the rights to the masters. In fact, I would say that something heading into the public domain is more likely to have it's masters trashed, as it would no longer have any economic value to retain them.

    "Universal has struck an agreement in which the Library will be granted ownership of the physical master discs while the company retains copyright for the music itself. The Library of Congress will soon begin the process of digitizing the music directly from the master discs, which Universal may eventually issue as commercial releases."

    So not only does the LoC get ownership of the masters (to preserve forever), we may even get to see new restored releases of music that might otherwise be lost.

    Is every donation to the LoC some sort of scheme to shift costs to the taxpayer? Perhaps we should tell the LoC to stop accepting stuff, it's too expensive to keep history anymore.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:00am

    Re:

    "to the world"

    If UMG are retaining the copyrights, I highly doubt that. I'm not even allowed to buy their music through Amazon due to their licensing rules so I doubt they'll let me listen for free.

    Even if they are making it global, it's hardly cause for celebration. If that happens, then as a non-US resident, I can stream the music for free but it's *your* taxes that pay for the bandwidth and upkeep costs, while foreign and private organisations aren't allowed to help out.

    Hardly progress. It's the kind of empty gesture that's made occasionally so they can pretend to care about the public's rights while maintaining as much control as possible. Some of us still aren't fooled by this kind of transparent posturing. If they want to make a difference, they should make the works public domain - like they would have been before the rules got changed to "protect" label profits.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:09am

    Re: Re:

    plus that's the best and least expensive marketing ploy ever.

    UMG gave away nothing (value wise) but instead its saving lots of $$$ in storage fees + cost of any potential restoration + its practicably gained a whole new set of collection+ (wonder how many hours of uninterrupted Music of music equates to "[over] 5,000 linear feet") which will get allot of interest after this announcement.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:15am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Putting these donations into the public domain wouldn't preclude UMG from releasing anything if they wanted to.

    It is exactly what it looks like: rightsholders foisting the costs of digitization onto the taxpayer but giving nothing in return.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "something heading into the public domain is more likely to have it's masters trashed, as it would no longer have any economic value to retain them"

    Really? I would say that would make them more valuable - make a new restoration of the masters (which nobody else has access to) and (IIRC) you get a brand new sparkly copyright on the new remaster. Besides, public domain doesn't mean that something loses value, it's just that the original creator no longer retains a monopoly on the original version. There's plenty of PD works that remain constant sellers despite their PD nature.

    "we may even get to see new restored releases of music that might otherwise be lost."

    How, and at whose expense? Whatever's is done to the masters while they're in the possession of the LoC, nobody can release the restoration without UMG's permission since they retain the copyrights. So, at best, the taxpayer shoulders the burden for the remaster while UMG reaps all the profits. At worst, the restored version is not releasable to the general public.

    "Is every donation to the LoC some sort of scheme to shift costs to the taxpayer?"

    Every donation with strings attached, yes.

     

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    Grouch, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:17am

    Seems to me like a plus plus for all involved. Donating them gives us eventual opportunities to enjoy them. With the LOC in charge of keeping them they are safe for historical purposes and that is all the LOC is about. There interests have nothing to do with making money. All Universal has done is to make sure of this. Perhaps Universal is running out of storage for what is most accessed and used today. If LOC did not exist they may be forced to store these master copies in a less secure and unprotected environment. If LOC had the copyright and ever let them lapse for any reason then anyone of us could conceivably renew it and demand they be released for personal gain. Obviously we would never take the steps that Universal or the LOC would take to preserve this history. Just makes sense and when it comes to history, it is the taxpayers burden. Just think about it like this, as a taxpayer we all own some of the greatest history and creativity of this modern world. It is as much yours as it is mine.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Universal has struck an agreement in which the Library will be granted ownership of the physical master discs while the company retains copyright for the music itself. The Library of Congress will soon begin the process of digitizing the music directly from the master discs, which Universal may eventually issue as commercial releases."


    That is the problem, and you missed it when you read that part. Translated into layman's terms, it says that the LoC is going to use taxpayer money to restore these masters, and then Universal gets to profit off of that tax money by then SELLING these restorations.

    Universal loses nothing, lets someone else foot the restoration and archiving bill, and then gets to sell the music yet again.

     

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    Designerfx (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:37am

    gets worse

    I'm wondering if they are doing this to actually extend the copyrights by saying "We're giving it a new 30 year copyright" to the library of congress? It's a logic

    meanwhile I agree, this isn't much of an altruistic donation.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:42am

    Re:

    "Just think about it like this, as a taxpayer we all own some of the greatest history and creativity of this modern world. It is as much yours as it is mine."

    Except that it isn't when UMG still holds all the rights - we have to ask them permission (and be considered infringers if we don't) to use these restorations that we paid for.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:46am

    Maybe a future gift in disguise

    Perhaps the best that would happen would be for Universal to re-release the newly-mastered stuff commercially so that Joe Public could see that his $taxdollars$ paid for $profit$ for Universal for stuff that's really very old. Maybe Joe Public would finally ask 'Hey, what's up with all of that?', see the cost-shifting ploy for what it really is, wonder why all this stuff doesn't *already* belong to all of us. Otherwise, we have these conversations in an eternal vacuum amongst ourselves.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So you are saying that the LoC is going to hire a bunch of new people and incur all sorts of costs for accepting a donation?

    I'm not following here. I thought they already had staff, a budget, and facilities.

     

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    btrussell (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:49am

    Just proof that copyright terms are too long.
    Term is longer than holder can afford to store them.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:54am

    Re:

    how does the tax payer own some of the greatest history and creativity of this modern world?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I would say that would make them more valuable - make a new restoration of the masters (which nobody else has access to) and (IIRC) you get a brand new sparkly copyright on the new remaster.

    You get a copyright on the remastered work, but not the original (as the original is still "old"). It doesn't preclude anyone else from using the original recordings once they are in the public domain.

    But you missed my key point. When something goes into the public domain, it's economic value (what it can be sold for) drops to near zero. The chance of making money on it is low, so there is no money to keep storing the masters and maintaining them. You have no more rights than anyone else, why would companies want to spend to maintain the things? I suspect that many companies just trash old masters as no longer being relevant, once the material nears public domain their time with it is done.

    Instead or recycling the raw materials, what Universal has done is give them to the LoC, who can maintain and remaster them as they see fit, and go from there.

    Oh yeah, this is sort of important: If the LoC is the ones doing the remastering, any copyright granted would normally be to them. The agreement probably grants Universal a license, but the LoC might actually profit from this arrangement (reproduction license). So it is unlikely that " UMG reaps all the profits", as you said.

     

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    thegreatsemaj, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:55am

    Digital Remastered

    I read alot here and don't comment often so correct me if I am wrong. Can't the LoC take the originals, "remaster" them and then own the copyright on the remastered version? That is how remastered versions work right?

    Atleast Universal wouldn't own it?

     

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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 8:56am

    Poor sap

    Just wait until someone uses these thinking they are "free", then the C&D's will fly, or they will just get sued. Very confusing to JQP.

     

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    johnjac (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 9:03am

    Re: Digital Remastered

    Remastering something doesn't grant you any new copyrights.

    This was tried with Beatles music. See Techdirt article here http://goo.gl/WfgoT

     

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    DH's Love Child (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 9:03am

    Re:

    Just think about it like this, as a taxpayer we all own some of the greatest history and creativity of this modern world. It is as much yours as it is mine.

    Wrong, wrong, WRONG! The copyright still belongs to UMG, so the LOC can only release the recordings to the public with UMG's permission. We the taxpayers are footing the bill for storage

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 9:04am

    National Jukebox

    What people are missing is that there will be a "National Jukebox" where you can play this music as much as you want for free.
    This will probably be the future of music. No need to download and store the individual mp3s; instead just stream from a central location.
    I don't need to own the mp3 if I can listen to it on my portable device by streaming it.

     

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    Johnny, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Like the existing staff couldn't be doing something else in the public interest rather that work for Universal.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    But you missed my key point. When something goes into the public domain, it's economic value (what it can be sold for) drops to near zero.

    That is just plain not true. There are tonnes of public domain books that are published in a variety of editions by multiple publishers - why? Because they sell well and are of no cost to the publisher. Seminal PD classics are a great cash cow for publishers.

    Or take Night of the Living Dead, which is PD and according to Wikiepedia is available in 23 different DVD editions and 19 VHS editions. Value near zero?

    The idea that PD works have no economic value is a ridiculous fallacy.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, and now that "staff, budget and facilities" will be used to primarily benefit a private company while throwing the public a few bones.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    No, the public will not own this work. The public will be granted permission to listen to this work on one specific website through one authorized stream, and that's it.

    I dabble in sample-based music production, and I'd love to start tearing up this stuff for samples (and I almost certainly will) - but I'm not allowed to. I don't own it.

    Filmmakers can't use it in their movies without still getting a license from UMG. People can't put this on their iPod without breaking copyright law. The list of ways we don't "own" this stuff goes on and on...

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 9:30am

    Re: National Jukebox

    And when they decide not to support a new device that gets released? Or when they decide to limit the number of plays? Or when they start removing songs you love because of retroactive copyright disputes?

    Letting it all be controlled by one rights-holder is not good.

     

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    average_joe (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 9:59am

    The way I see it, everybody wins. I think it's unfortunate that this isn't being celebrated by techdirt.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: Digital Remastered

    BlueBeat was shot down when they tried that with Beatles music, yes. However it is my sad duty to inform you that record labels do indeed register new copyrights on remastered work, and until someone with the necessary legal muscle decides to challenge them on it, they will probably continue to do so.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    Because everyone except UMG only "wins" in an extremely limited way. I think TD has this exactly right: it's "better than nothing" but ultimately a pretty pathetic gesture, and one that they are getting way more credit for than they deserve.

    Most of the media is treating this as an altruistic act by UMG. But tell me, what has UMG given up? What his this cost them?

    ...seemingly nothing at all, while there are plenty of benefits. That's not altruism. It barely qualifies as a "donation"

     

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    Woadan, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 10:13am

    As I see it the only real celebratory item here is that these masters will not suffer from the neglect they almost certainly were suffering from before this deal.

    I doubt it would happen, but honestly, if it is going to be a gift, then the LoC should be able to recoup its costs (all costs--restoration, storage, digitization costs, anything really) before Universal (or any future offerings from other labels) gets a dime.

     

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    average_joe (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 10:19am

    Re: Re:

    I don't judge the value of this by how much UMG had to give up or what it cost them.

     

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    bob, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 10:21am

    Ahhh Yes But

    Once they stream it, I can copy it.

     

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    Not an electronic Rodent, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I don't judge the value of this by how much UMG had to give up or what it cost them.
    Me neither to a certain extent, the baseline being 'what's in it for me?'. So what would you judge the value on? Cost to you and what can you can do with the "free" music seem the obvious ones and it doesn't score well on either.

    I suspect, though it's true I won't be paying for it either being in the UK (well depends how you look at it I guess), that I will get nothing whatsoever out of this "generous donation to the public". The cynic in me says any streaming will be locked to US IPs only, probably under T&C from UMG (and of course I couldn't use a US proxy... that'd be naughty). Just as my inner cynic says that the T&C almost certainly assign the rights of any remastered content back to UMG. In the unlikely event that they don't I might be persuaded that it's at least a small gesture of generosity rather than pure self interest.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm talking about the fact that UMG is getting a lot of undeserved credit and a lot of people are getting an incorrect perception of what has actually happened here.

    You can say "everybody wins" if you want, but that gives a pretty skewed version of the situation. In reality, UMG wins big, everyone else gets thrown a bone.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 11:36am

    Re:

    So wait, they donate the original recordings, allow the LoC to stream the material for free, and they are somehow bad people for doing it?


    Universal isn't bad for "donating" anything or "allowing" it to be streamed - they're bad because of the bad stuff you didn't mention.

    At the risk of Godwinning this thread:

    "So wait, Hitler unites Germany and solves their economic problems, and he is somehow a bad person for doing it?"

     

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    Karl (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 11:55am

    Re: Digital Remastered

    Can't the LoC take the originals, "remaster" them and then own the copyright on the remastered version?

    No, because they don't hold the copyright on the original versions. The remastered version is a "derivative work," whose copyright is controlled by the original rights holder.

     

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    Karl (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 12:04pm

    Re:

    The way I see it, everybody wins.

    I don't really like any of this music. Yet, my tax dollars are paying for its restoration. And I can't even change it into music that I do like (through cover versions, sampling, etc).

    So: I was forced to pay for something I can't use. How is that a win?

    Granted - for society in general, it's better that these were preserved than not. But if Universal doesn't value them enough to preserve them, why should they even be allowed to hold the copyright? If they are really not making enough money off the music to preserve the masters, how is granting them copyright serving any purpose?

    If these were in the public domain, the LOC would be spending the same money on restoration, but the public would actually gain the right to use the works. Instead, the public foots the bill, and gains no rights that it didn't already have.

    Universal gains a lot, and the public gains a pittance.

     

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    Karl (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Re:

    The way I see it, everybody wins.

    I was just forced at gunpoint to pay for Pandora. Is that how "everybody wins?"

     

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    progrocktv, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 12:10pm

    At least in the long run....

    ...when the titles DO go into PD, the masters will be in a safe place. Studios (both music and movies)frequently destroy masters once a title enters PD.

     

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    Richard (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I suspect that many companies just trash old masters as no longer being relevant, once the material nears public domain their time with it is done.

    Your comment simply reveals your selfish and mean spirited patterns of thought.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Marcus, the republished works may have some sales potential in the marketplace, but they would not have the same value to the companies at that point that they had before.

    For every "seminal" classic, there are hundreds of useless, out of date publications that mean nothing.

    Night of the Living Dead is a bit of a misdirection too, as it is too modern to be in PD, except that the film maker made an error when first released. That isn't a very good example of something that has done it's 90 years and been "retired", it is an incredibly exceptional case (and perhaps proof of the value of copyright to the original film maker).

    You can always find exceptional cases. Points at 1% of things and saying "all things are like this because of this 1%" is misleading.

    I didn't say that PD works have no economic value, I said " it's economic value (what it can be sold for) drops to near zero. ". It still has some value (everything does, even your comments) but it's market price as a result is very low. Remember, this is compared to the value and price of something that they have exclusive rights on. The moment the rights are no longer exclusive, they can no longer sell it as an exclusive product, and must then price compete with anyone capable of reproducing the product. At that point, it's the lowest possible price that wins.

     

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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 12:43pm

    Already done

    Big whoop! Bob uploaded all these recordings to torrent sites years ago for all to listen to...and Universal got to keep the copyrights.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 12:53pm

    Would somebody please post a link that includes the complete details of this transaction?

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And you wonder why your side is losing.

     

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  52.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 2:21pm

    Re: National Jukebox

    yeah, that'll work great in my car.

     

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  53.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "You get a copyright on the remastered work, but not the original (as the original is still "old"). It doesn't preclude anyone else from using the original recordings once they are in the public domain."

    Exactly. The rights to access the material remains with the public, where it should belong. But, the original creator has access to revenue possibilities unavailable to anybody else. If a fan of the material has access to the washed-out print on most PD DVDs and the newly copyrighted remastered version with additional material not available elsewhere, guess who gets the money? People will still pay the original creator, they just don't have the monopoly.

    "When something goes into the public domain, it's economic value (what it can be sold for) drops to near zero"

    This is demonstrably untrue, especially for products where the distributor is willing to add extra value to the content that's unavailable to the competitor. This is much more likely to come from the original creator, who has access to material and original sources that nobody else has direct access to.

    "I suspect that many companies just trash old masters as no longer being relevant, once the material nears public domain their time with it is done."

    Which is what the LoC and other archivers are there for. The problem here is that UMG wants it both ways - they don't want the costs of maintaining the material, but they also want to maintain their monopoly on being able to profit should the opportunity arise. They should not expect to have their cake and eat it - either release the material to PD where it belongs, or don't pass the burden of maintaining culture off to the taxpayer.

    "Oh yeah, this is sort of important: If the LoC is the ones doing the remastering, any copyright granted would normally be to them."

    I'm a little hazy on the exact legal ins and outs but I don't think so. With PD material, that would be the case, but here it depends on the agreements they have with UMG. Since UMG retain the licence for the original material, any derivative works would belong partly to them, under the terms of the contact with LoC.

    Besides, that still leaves out the major point - all of this stuff should, by rights, already be public domain. Any rights retained by UMG on the originals is still more than they should have had under the copyright rules of the time they were produced. That's a problem, especially when they seem to be trying to act like good samaritans for allow the public to have some limited access.

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 3:05pm

    Re:

    They didn't donate the works, they passed the responsibility of conservation to the public and framed in a nice way to appear all benevolent.

     

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  55.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 3:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    But you missed my key point. When something goes into the public domain, it's economic value (what it can be sold for) drops to near zero.


    Why is open source flourishing then?

    Why are people selling things on the streets that nobody owns?

    It doesn't diminish anything except the "exclusive" part of it, the right to exclude others, everybody then can have a chance to make some money not just one entity, it spreads the love all over and can spark a new economy based on cooperation instead of rivalry.

     

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  56.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "The moment the rights are no longer exclusive, they can no longer sell it as an exclusive product, and must then price compete with anyone capable of reproducing the product."

    Sadly, this just shows limited imagination, unsurprising for people on your side of the argument, as ever. Exclusivity does not guarantee sales, especially if you're not willing to offer a good package. I've bought DVDs of PD films for their extra features, and rejected newer movies because I don't want to pay for a barebones edition. The packaging is key, and the original producer often has the upper hand, even if the central product is PD.

    Another example: if I look at Amazon right now, there's a Kindle version of Bram Stoker's Dracula for $0.00, yet there's also physical versions for $4.50, $12 and derivative works for even more, ranging from newly illustrated editions to new stories building on Stoker's text. By your logic, none but the Kindle and perhaps $4.50 physical versions would be produced, yet publishers still find ways of selling new copies.

    "At that point, it's the lowest possible price that wins."

    Untrue, as illustrated above, even if you ignore the possibility of derivative works (which you have to be foolish to omit from the equation).

    As for your comments about Night Of The Living Dead, it's true that its age works in its favour to some degree but your "90 years" comment is revealing. It would certainly have been PD a long time ago anyway if the system hadn't been gamed repeatedly since its production. Even so, Romero and Russo have managed to leverage that movie into careers despite a lack of monopoly, even if only certain editions have made them money directly. That's an argument against the need for long-reaching copyright, not an argument against the PD.

     

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  57.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 3:28pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    UMG gave up nothing and you can't point to anything.

    - The songs are very old and probably wouldn't sell that much except for a niche market where the sums involved still in spite of all their problems don't seem that attractive to them.

    - They are shifting the cost of physical maintenance to the public without giving them anything.

    - UMG will keep all their rights and continue to "exclude" others from using it.

    - This could augment the market and drive some sales for them.

    So exactly what they have to give up?

     

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  58.  
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    Mudlock, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 3:37pm

    Re:

    Sure. I mean, preservation of culturally important works is like, half of the LoC's job. That's the only reason why they would agreed to such a crap deal; they care about that while UMG only cares about their profits. But it's still a crap deal, and I pray that someone in congress will listen to the librarians when the next Mickey Mouse Copyright Extension Act rolls through (but I won't hold my breathe.)

     

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  59.  
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    cc (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 4:02pm

    I do mostly agree with what people are saying, that Universal is hardly being altruistic in passing on the storage and restoration costs to the taxpayer while keeping the copyrights.

    However, I must point out that at the end of the day there IS a silver lining to this story: if the masters were left in Universal's care, they would very likely have rotted away for lack of maintenance by the time their copyrights have expired (or they would have been thrown out).

    By letting taxpayers foot the restoration bill, the recordings will at least survive until they enter the public domain! Better than nothing, indeed.

     

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  60.  
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    rec9140, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 4:59pm

    Simple...

    LoC takes PHYSICAL custody of the masters.

    Waits about 1 year....

    Librarian of Congress ...Releases CD's or what ever of the recordings..

    UMG sues.. GOOD LUCK with that suckers! YOU CAN'T SUE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT... Yeah sure file it... YOU WILL LOOSE!

    Possesion is 9/10 of the law.. LoC has the masters... Locked up in a FEDERAL VAULT! Good luck getting the back!

    While in detail this is nothing more than passing the storage costs on to the taxpayers, FINE... WE THE TAXPAYERS WILL DO WITH THEM AS WE SEE FIT!

    Stream away...

    URL please... My streamripper is ready and waiting...

    Mp3 saved... and onto the p2p networks!

     

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

  61.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jan 20th, 2011 @ 6:19pm

    Re:

    Just curious.
    What makes you think they will ever enter public domain?

     

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  62.  
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    Not an electronic Rodent, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 6:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It still has some value (everything does, even your comments) but it's market price as a result is very low
    And even if that's true, which does not in fact seem to be the case, what's wrong with that? If the cost to produce something that makes that "very low market price" is also vanishingly low then you can still make money out of it. Where is it written that it's your right to always make the same amount of money out of something no matter how long it's been around?
    The moment the rights are no longer exclusive, they can no longer sell it as an exclusive product, and must then price compete with anyone capable of reproducing the product. At that point, it's the lowest possible price that wins.
    Yes, that's called a "free market". You know, like is supposed to be the basis of capitalism? The "exclusive right" you speak of is supposed to be a temporary grant of a privalege - an abberation in that free market, not control of an idea in perpetuity.
    At that point, it's the lowest possible price that wins.
    Wrong. Mind bendingly wrong in fact. The highest value/price ratio of a product wins. You can charge more for the same product if you are offering it in a way that adds value that the consumer is willing to pay for. This netflix that everyone here talks about seems to be a good case in point. The content is the same but it seems consumers are willing to pay for the convienient delivery method. There's no reason to expect that they would not continue to do so (albeit at likely a reduced price, but then costs go down too) if the contect itself were free.

    Explain how competition is bad for society? Explain how companies competing fairly in a marketplace by all means including offering lower prices if they choose is a bad thing? Or do you perchance work in the industry thus artificially propped up by governments?

     

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  63.  
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    Not an electronic Rodent, Jan 20th, 2011 @ 7:01pm

    Re: Simple...

    Librarian of Congress ...Releases CD's or what ever of the recordings..
    A nice idea and maybe even true in principle should it come to it, but do you really think a part of the US government is going to act directly against a large corporate copyright holder and (totally irrelevantly of course) major campaign contributor? Has that happend in say the last 50 years? At all?

     

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  64.  
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    Karl (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 12:12am

    Re: Simple...

    YOU CAN'T SUE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT...

    You certainly can. In fact, your scenario is explicitly prohibited under copyright law. It's in Title 17, Chapter 5, Sec. 11.

     

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

  65.  
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    roland985 (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 3:59am

    Meh

    Who cares? It no suprise that they would do that anyway...

     

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  66.  
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    cc (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 5:21am

    Re: Re:

    Hope.

     

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  67.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 6:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    LOL
    May want to pray to the Gods and offer a virgin sacrifice or two.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_term

     

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

  68.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 6:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Amazing that a "mistake" like Night of the Living Dead is still a hugely successful film distributed by a couple dozen different companies.

    You can make up elaborate arguments for why they aren't actually worth that much if you want, but the simple fact is they are clearly valuable or there wouldn't be a bunch of entities competing to sell them

     

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  69.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 3:32am

    wow, free high quality masters storage

     

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

  70.  
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    iveseenitall, Jan 29th, 2011 @ 7:57am

    Great! Thank you Universal!
    Since we are footing the bill for storage and the costs of registration please tell me where can I pick up my copy of the entire catalog.

     

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

  71.  
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    iveseenitall, Jan 29th, 2011 @ 2:49pm

    Great! Thank you Universal!
    Since we are footing the bill for storage and the costs of registration please tell me where can I pick up my copy of the entire catalog.

     

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

  72.  
    identicon
    iveseenitall, Jan 29th, 2011 @ 2:49pm

    Great! Thank you Universal!
    Since we are footing the bill for storage and the costs of registration please tell me where can I pick up my copy of the entire catalog.

     

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


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