----- Original Message -----
From: "Karl Miller" <[log in to unmask]>
> On Thu, 12 Aug 2004, Steven C. Barr wrote:
> > 1) One important factor here! Record companies, most notably RCA/BMG,
> > are still selling large quantities of pre-1954 records, to which they
> > hold an equivalent to copyright for US reissue...and the true "gold
> > becomes unguarded at the end of this year, when the first recordings
> > of Elvis Presley become public domain in Canada and much of Europe.
> It interests me that it seems to me to be something of an evolution in
> popular music, perhaps related to technology. Popular music recordings
> from the 50s still have can attract a substantial market, yet popular
> music recordings from the 20s have a smaller market. The audio quality of
> from the 50s versus the 20s may also be a factor in the market potential
> of recordings from the 50s.
> What concerns me is the ability, and sometimes the perception, that
> organizations can withhold information that might be of benefit to the
> public. I think of the situation of the broadcast performances of music,
> both popular and clasical, which may have limited market potential and
> remain locked away.
> Archives that struggle to preserve and restore that sort of material. It
> seems odd to me that archives get grants to preserve the recordings of
> organization, say the New York Philharmonic, yet those same archives can
> make the recordings available for listening on site. As a researcher and
> listener, I am effectively kept from information, the preservation of
> is often being supported by public funds.
> What if the law stated something like, if a recording is over 50 years
> old, not issued, and you restore it, you own it or agree to pay some fixed
> rate, which would allow archives the right to SELL recordings of
> unissued material they are entrusted to preserve and restore. There must
> be some logical way to satisfy the needs of all concerned.
> Unfortuately, that might lead to "bean counting," choosing preservation
> priorities based on maketability.
> Perhaps a task for one of the ARSC committees...or is this already being
1) Anent the unusual lifespan of more-or-less recent pop recordings...I
find this to be an oddity, and often wonder who is to blame! I believe
it was a year or so ago that the top-of-the-charts album was a Beatles
anthology...and that group hasn't existed for about 35 years! This would
be akin to Whiteman heading record sales in 1960...and in 1960 I think
the only way you could hear Whiteman (and his contemporaries) was to
search out 78's! As well, RCA still pumps out Presley and Miller
anthologies, which go back even further!
2) I've always felt there should be a "use it or lose it" approach
to sound recordings...that is, the copyright holder could only retain
the copyright as long as the recording was maintained in the "person's"
active catalog. This would be advantageous in at least two ways:
a) If a record company doesn't wish to (re)issue material which they
feel, rightly or wrongly, has little commercial potential...then
they forfeit the right to bring suit for infringement against a
party who does reissue it. Right now, current copyright law gives
record firms the chance to play "dog in the manger" with a lot
of their back catalog, telling interested parties "YOU can't legally
issue this...and WE won't!"
b) If an artist sees his recording(s) disappear from the catalog of
his/her/its record label, this artist could now arrange his own
independent reissue; thus, if the artist feels the recording would
have sold better with proper promotion, that can be arranged if
the finances are available...since the recording(s) would become
p.d. if dropped from the label's catalog. There are a number of
artists who have hauled labels into court (and on occasion won)
on the basis that they were deprived of potential income by the
label's business practices. In fact, I have seen friends of
mine in this situation!
Also, it would leave record companies able to maintain copyright
control on items they still sold (they can only do this in the US
now, and only for another few decades). There was a discussion on
another list I belong to involving the fact that an independent
label had been able, presumably legally, to essentially duplicate
CBS's hit Robert Johnson box set, since the recordings involved
had long since been out of copyright outside the US!
Steven C. Barr