Senator Thom Tillis Seems Really Pissed Off That The Internet Archive Bought A Record Store To Make Rare Recordings Accessible

from the what-kind-of-monster...? dept

Senator Thom Tillis (or perhaps some staffer in his office who is desperate for a job as a legacy copyright industry lobbyist in his next job) really seems to have it in for the Internet Archive. Beyond trying to rewrite copyright law to make it favor the legacy players even more than it already does, and beyond telling copyright experts that they shouldn't even dare think of commenting on the state of copyright law today, Tillis really seems to have an infatuation with the Internet Archive wanting to help people by providing them information. I don't know what the library ever did to Tillis as a child, but as a Senator he sure seems to hate the very concept. He sent one very confused, misinformed, and angry letter to the Internet Archive over its National Emergency Library, and now he's sent another one after news broke that the Archive had purchased the distressed, but famed, Bop Street Records in Seattle.

When the news originally broke that the Archive had purchased Bop Street, most portrayed it as great news. The owner, Dave Vorhees, had decided to shut down the shop a month earlier, and he wasn't sure if he'd be able to sell off the 500,000 recordings the store held. So people were excited that the Archive stepped in -- and did so not with plans to lock up and hide the collection, but to find the gems that could be made available and do so:

Kahle has a particular interest in obscure recordings, he said. “High school marching bands, soundtracks for foreign movies you’ve never heard of — those are just treasures.”

The diversity and quality of the Bop Street inventory, which includes more than 100 albums by jazz pianist Fats Waller as well as a healthy selection of classical music, rock, R&B, jazz, country and other musical genres, was exactly the kind of thing the Internet Archive is on the lookout for, Kahle said.

If you can't tell, Brewster Kahle has the mind of someone looking to preserve and share culture.

Thom Tillis, on the other hand, has the mind of someone who thinks that culture must be locked up:

According to a May 15, 2020 article in the Seattle Times, the Internet Archive has purchased Bop Street Records full collection of 500,000 sound recordings with the “inten[t] to digitize the recordings and put them online, where they can be streamed for free.” It is not clear from the article, or others, if you intend to digitize all of the sound recordings acquired from Bop Street. But it is clear that these sound recordings were very recently for sale in a commercial record shop and likely contain many sound recordings that retain significant commercial value. This raises serious alarms about copyright infringement.

As I understand, Bop Street Records, which the Wall Street Journal once deemed a top-five record shop in the country, focuses on collectible-quality vinyl records across a diverse range of musical genres. According to its website, there sound recordings includes “Rock, Soul/R&B, Jazz, Blues, Classical, Country, World and many other genres from the 1920’s to 1990’s.” The overwhelming majority-if not all-of these sound recordings are protected by U.S. copyright law, and thus may not be digitized and streamed or downloaded without authorization.

In a similar vein, I am aware of the Internet Archive’s “Great 78 Project,” which has already digitized-and continues to digitize daily-a vast trove of 78 rpm recordings, many of which are also commercially valuable recordings already in the marketplace, and has made those recordings available to the public for free through unlimited streaming and download. I understand that the Internet Archive is framing this and its other sound recording projects--which include both obscure gems for music fans and hits from the likes of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Johnny Cash-as preservation, but your current practices raise numerous potential issues of copyright infringement. The Bop Street collection is likely to add to that. Among other things, your sound recording projects do not appear to comply with the relevant provisions of the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA), which deals only with pre-1972 sound recordings and would not allow for streaming or downloading. Moreover, there are additional copyrights, such as the musical composition and the album artwork, that are displayed on the Internet Archive website and would not be covered by an exception for preservation.

The inclusion of the Great 78 Project here just seems to be a gratuitous anti-culture attack by Tillis for no goddam reason other than he is against the preservation of cultural artifacts. The Great 78 Project has been out for a few years now, and it's a project that was put together not just by the Internet Archive, but in collaboration with the Archive of Contemporary Music and George Blood LP. The project is a recognition that tons of old 78rpm records are the only copies of that music ever recorded and my grandparents were the last generation to have easy access to a 78 rpm record player. The archival of those records falls into a murky space in copyright law because, thanks to insane copyright term extension. You can be pretty damn sure that anything on a 78rpm record, when it was recorded, was recorded with the clear understanding that by 2020, it would be in the public domain. The fact that some might not be isn't a condemnation of the Great 78 Project, but of Congress for destroying culture in this manner.

Now, someone who was actually, say, an elected official representing the public and who took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, including the clause that pretty directly states that the purpose of copyright law is to "promote the progress," might look at that last paragraph and say, quite obviously, that if a jumble of messed up copyright laws are getting in the way of preserving music that no one can listen to, and of making it widely available -- or that merely posting album artwork is somehow against the law -- that maybe the law is pretty damn messed up, and that Congress -- or even the Senate Intellectual Subcommittee, of which Thom Tillis is the chair -- would want to fix those obviously broken laws.

But, nope. To Tillis it's an opportunity to attack a library that has stepped up to save a massive collection of rare items, and to give them a new life. To someone of Tillis' point of view -- that seems to merely be an unfiltered, unthinking conduit for some giant Hollywood interests -- this kind of public good must be stopped.

Filed Under: 78 rpms, archives, great 78s, libraries, old records, preserving culture, thom tillis
Companies: bop street records, internet archive


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2020 @ 12:13pm

    Not sure what the problem is? They paid for that collection daily and so own all rights to that collection. Since they own it, they can do with it what they wish, which includes allowing it to be streaming for free or downloaded for free.

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

    • icon
      R.H. (profile), 16 Jun 2020 @ 7:42pm

      Re:

      Unfortunately, that's not how copyright works. If I bought a physical copy of a Drake album today, I wouldn't be able to legally stream it on the internet for free. I'd have to pay royalties in order to do that until the copyright runs out in 93 years or so.

      I think that album's copyright is held by a corporation which would mean 95 years of copyright but, I could be wrong and that would make it Drake's remaining lifespan plus 70 years.

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

  • icon
    Miles (profile), 16 Jun 2020 @ 12:24pm

    The problem with making old stuff available is that you'll be less likely to purchase new stuff.

    Instead of listing to high school marching bands, we should just continue to purchase Don Henley's crap.

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Jun 2020 @ 12:47pm

    The devil is in the details, so...

    Is it possible that Bop Street Records was in fact the copyright holder on those records, at least those that weren't already in the public domain and that the sale transferred those copyrights to the Internet Archive? Short of that rule where the artists can reclaim their copyright after a certain amount of time, wouldn't the Internet Archive then be able to do what they wished with those copyrights?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2020 @ 1:37pm

      Re: The devil is in the details, so...

      Is it possible that Bop Street Records was in fact the copyright holder on those records

      Very unlikely, as copyright does not transfer with copies. In some cases it may not be possible to determine the copyright holder due to businesses ceasing to operate.

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Jun 2020 @ 1:46pm

        Re: Re: The devil is in the details, so...

        Granted, but if Bop Street Records made the recordings, as often happens, they could be the copyright holders due to contractual arrangements. If that was the case, then those assets could (in theory) be transferred in the sale of the company. I presume that it was the company that was sold, not just the recordings.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2020 @ 2:12pm

          Re: Re: Re: The devil is in the details, so...

          It looks like the shop owner ran his shop like Aziraphale in Good Omens.

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

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 18 Jun 2020 @ 8:12am

          Re: Re: Re: The devil is in the details, so...

          Granted, but if Bop Street Records made the recordings,

          Bop Street Records is a record store, not a recording studio.

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

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 17 Jun 2020 @ 7:09am

      Re: The devil is in the details, so...

      I believe there is some confusion; Bop Street Records is not a record label, it is a record store. So the internet archive is actually purchasing copies of records, not copyrights.

      I made the same mistake as you until I read the Seattle Times article.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2020 @ 1:06pm

    Even in the 70's they have 4-speed turntables. I found one and possibly yet have it somewhere... 16, 33, 45, 78.

    Yeah, there is some good stuff on 78s. Spike Jones, even.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2020 @ 6:29am

      Re:

      You can still get a 78 rpm player with a semi-conical stylus at any Walmart for $40. But Im definitely not chewing my 1919-1930 shellacs thru it...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2020 @ 1:18pm

    2022

    It looks like sound recordings will start entering the public domain in 2022. So it's not too early to start digitizing the really old stuff. After that, it's 100-110 year after publication for many sound recordings.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Jun 2020 @ 2:12pm

    "many of which are also commercially valuable recordings already in the marketplace"

    Really? Some of these were only in the record store that closed because these socalled valuable recordings couldn't connect with a buyer.

    "likely contain many sound recordings that retain significant commercial value"

    If they have so much commercial value how come I can't buy them from the labels or any commercial music purchasing sites?

    "This raises serious alarms about copyright infringement."

    Something something boston strangler
    Something something will cease to exist
    Something something record profits
    Something something we were unable to find the artists we owed money to & well then we just gave it to the top 10 acts
    Something something stop allowing 1 group to control our shared history & cling to it long after even the dimmest memories of it have faded from our collective memories as they try to fsck a few more pennies from the corpse
    Something something so valuable we can't make it available at any price to "good" citizens who want to purchase it but we need to make it a felony to punish people we refuse to cater to.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2020 @ 2:24pm

    he's probably pissed because they wont be paying him anything for putting stuff out!

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 16 Jun 2020 @ 4:36pm

    well well...

    Who remembers SOME of hte contracts of the past...Esp int he age of the 78'
    The Artist SOLD everything to the production company. ALL of it. Gained nothing. And generally, NOT even paid that much for it.

    Until the artists got together, and another group decided to take charge.. It then got almost worse. The production corps Had all the power Still. And then the artists made a few unions, and got legal backing, AND EVEN in the 70's Artists were still being Screwed. Until they got Enough power to control PART of the songs, music, art.. And Finally got a Small share of the sales. Most ly because the Production companies Held contracts that only let THEM sell the music to Each of the locations.. No one could have any other agencies music, and nothing independent.

    And when the Artists die...Who gets the money.. There has been a debate about this, and when the contracts END. And what the artist signed.

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 16 Jun 2020 @ 11:39pm

    Being a Senate Republican and serving the needs of the public never seem to go hand in hand.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2020 @ 12:10am

    Well, guess the fuck what? Congress, senators, reps, all in cahoots with the scum in entertainment have stolen from so many people, including little girls diaries, it isn't even funny. Fuck them. They shall rot in hell.

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

  • icon
    afn29129 David (profile), 17 Jun 2020 @ 2:49am

    The George Morrow 78 collection

    The George Morrow 78 collection.

    Following the collapse of his computer businesses, Morrow devoted the rest of his life to his hobby of collecting original 78 RPM jazz and dance records from the 1920s and 1930s. Until his death, he digitally transcribed and restored thousands of recordings using a computer system he developed, reissuing them under his Old Masters label.

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

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 17 Jun 2020 @ 4:21am

    'If major record labels can't have it, can't monetise it, then no-one can! Burn non profitable culture on the altar of capitalism!'

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2020 @ 6:27am

    Let's not forget the other villain(s) in this.

    Let me state the obvious. Copyright has become about limiting supply, in order to blackmail demand. If the entrenched xxAA can keep older material locked up, then the only supply is from them. Classic organized crime. (Refusal to prosecute doesn't make the unlawful legal, it simply means the prosecutors are corrupt.)

    HOWEVER, remember that there are additional serious villains in this, besides the xxAA's and Congress. Another significant villain is Academia (as well as the corrupt consulting industry). Business schools teach this sort of business tactic and call it ethical. The xxAA's pay consultants and academics to teach this, the consultants and academia sell out an teach this sort of business extortion back to the xxAA's and their peers.

    (BTW, this mechanism is called "positive feedback" in engineering. Not positive as good, but positive as the output reinforces the input and the result is a rapid progress to the extreme. Useful for digital logic, but a problem in the analog real world.)

    Therefore, while we are complaining and (hopefully) objecting politically, it would be beneficial to object to public funding to universities who teach this sort of rot!

    Does anyone know of a university that actually takes ethics, integrity, truth and civilization seriously?

    (I don't refer to those universities saturated in the barbarity of political correctness. There is no more uncivilized concept than PC).

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

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 17 Jun 2020 @ 6:46am

    The real problem with digitizing this stuff...

    is that some clown(s) will download the audio and enter its signature into ContentId and other automated systems under their own name.

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


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