Even if the economy has a little to do with it, do they really think people will return? I cut the cord over 10 years ago because I couldn't afford it, I never looked back. When I got married I talked my wife out of cable and we've been better for it.
You are correct regarding the physical recordings (wax cylinders, records, magnetic tapes), if they are the property of someone who doesn't want to give them up. They have the right to do with them as they please.
However, that does not change the fact that what is recorded on the physical objects are of historical and cultural significance and are so old that they belong in the public domain.
What good does it do to let these works be lost forever? What money are they making just letting them rot? If a museum, researcher, or private collector is willing to pay for the original recordings, and pay to have them preserved and digitized for future generations to enjoy or study how is that not a win situation for everyone?
Old sound recordings are a huge passion of mine, specifically in the realm of Old Time Radio, much of witch is thought to be in the public domain. It's the public domain that allows the researchers and collectors to actively seek out and restore these recordings and freely distribute them on the internet.
Many of these recordings are only available to the public because of the work of researchers and collectors who convert the audio recordings into mp3s.
Old sound recordings should belong to the public as a part of our collective history and culture not locked away in vaults to deteriorate beyond repair and be lost to history and culture.
"Millions of peaches. Peaches for me. Millions of peaches. Peaches for free. Look out!"
Well . . . I know who a girl who reminds me of Cher, she's always changing the color of her hair, she don't use nothing that you buy at the store, she likes her hair to be real orange; she uses tangerines.