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  I think this point of keeping items in print to maintain copyright has
some merits, but I 'd like to add one other factor. Under current law,
copyright holders have the right to publish or suppress. This makes
sense only up to the point where commercial value comes into play.
Meaning that while money can be generated, it makes sense that the
copyright holder have control over who makes that money, even if that's
nobody.
    The problem is that the duration of commercial viability has no
relation whatsoever to the duration of copyright. Louis Armstrong c.1928
recordings may still be moneymakers in 100 years, but by then
(hopefully) the state "copyrights" on his sound recordings will have
expired. Conversely, records put out in 2003 may have commercial value
for a year or less, and then nothing ever again.
   Until recently, the solution to this problem had been a form of
compromise over terms of copyright, first by making the holder apply for
an extension to go past the first 7, 14, or 28 year term. With state
laws for recordings, these sorts of compromises were never included, and
now with Sonny Bono's ghost and Disney determined to eliminate any real
barriers to eternal copyright (held by corporations of course) these
compromises are gone entirely. Thus, as some Supreme Court justices have
noted, corporations now hold much of the cultural heritage of our
country hostage (and incommunicado) so that they can continue to profit
from the less than one percent of that heritage that they can make money
off of.
   The solution is to return to the saner laws of the past, or to forge
new compromises which take into account commercial viability as a test
for extended copyright protection. I'd be willing to let the corps hold
onto Armstrong et al. as long as they continued to make that stuff
available and as long as they let go of all the stuff that they don't
need any more, which they only hold onto so as not to establish any
"precedents" which might hurt them somewhere down the road. As I've said
before, this can only happen through the Legislative branch, and the
sooner that concerned institutions pool their resources and make the
pitch to Congress, the sooner something good might happen.
   Until the recent fights over Bono's extension and RIAA's draconian
anti-piracy measures, I don't think Congress was that aware of the other
sides (other than the corporations')  to the issue of copyright and
public domain. Now I do think that they are more aware and would be much
more open to proposals for solutions that would at least accommodate all
sides, if not satisfy them entirely.

   This is my personal opinion and has no relation to any official
Library of Congress policy or position. Please don't confuse it for an
official Library statement. But I should say that a lot of jobs at the
Library (including mine) would be a great deal easier if copyright laws
were relaxed, so I'm especially unable to be neutral or disinterested on
this subject.

James

>>> [log in to unmask] 10/24/03 12:37PM >>>
----- Original Message -----
From: "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
> Or do we license all music ever made to a central database. They make
it
> available to everyone under different deals. A listening library pays
a
> yearly license fee, a consumer gets to download it for $?? a radio
station
> pays a different fee, and internet listener another and after 75
years
it's
> P.D. and free. (I currently like 75 years, 50 is too short and US law
is
> ridiculous!)
It's interesting to read this, coming as it is from an operation that
specializes
in the reissuing of old sound recordings. To me, though, it points out
the
need
for a different approach to the copyright terms on sound recordings.
Tom's
idea
on a term seems to be based on the age of the material they have
already
issued...
which seems logical when you think about it. However, it leaves
everything
<75
years old still protected, whether or not Arhoolie or someone else has
it in
their catalog and thus needs protection, and thus inaccessible to
anyone who
doesn't happen to have a copy of the original issue!

I still think that the best approach would be one which would be based
on
whether
the copyright owner had the material available to the public. There
would
have to
be a lot of fine points defined as to "available" and other
limitations, but
this
would at least remedy the current situation whereby the original owner
can
refuse
to (re)issue a recording and, as well, refuse to allow anyone else to
do so.
In
this scenario, a reissuer such as Arhoolie would acquire an effective
copyright
to any dormant material they reissued...but only for the duration of
the
availability
of their reissue. There might be problems if two different people
happened
to
reissue the same dormant recording(s) effectively simultaneously and
without
knowledge of the other project.

What are other thoughts on this approach?
Steven C. Barr

NOTE: This refers ONLY to the actual copyright on the sound recording,
and
not
to publisher or composer rights/royalties since they latter are covered
by
compulsory license.