Posted on behalf of Suzanne Flandreau, Chair, ARSC Grants Committee
This reply is for Tom Fine and anyone else who is wondering why the recordings ARSC preserves are not freely available online.
Unfortunately, ARSC does not have final control over the dissemination of the preservation recordings, especially online dissemination. That is up to the organizations we fund, because they have the best knowledge of the circumstances in which the recordings were originally made, and of the legal issues involved.
There are two major obstacles that keep digital preservation copies from being universally available on the internet. The first obstacle is copyright. Nearly every piece of music performed is under some form of rights restriction, and clearing rights, usually involving licensing, is cumbersome and expensive.
The second obstacle is the contractual agreements performing organizations make with musicians, which usually cover recordings and broadcasts and may require that musicians be compensated for any later use of a performance. For the recordings preserved, the contracts were negotiated long before the Internet. There were no provisions for online access. The organizations must abide by the existing contracts.
We wish that all the projects we fund could be broadly available. ARSC recommends that copies be placed in multiple trusted repositories, providing multiple places for on-site research use. But the organizations we assist, particularly the orchestras, would not even apply for preservation grants if we required universal online access, because they could not meet the requirement.
Isn't it best, given legal and contractual restrictions, to preserve at-risk recordings even if access to them can't be universal?
Chair, ARSC Grants Committee
Executive Director, Association for Recorded Sound Collections
1299 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403
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