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----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask]>
> I think Joe Buzzard operates under the radar by only releasing very
obscure
> stuff on labels that were never acquired. The question is, do the heirs of
> the artists have any claim on the material (perhaps not because as I
> understand it, a lot of blues and country performers were paid a
performance
> wage for recordings and signed over all perpetual rights to the recording
> companies)? If the heirs have no claims and the recording companies are
> defunct, and were never acquired as intellectual property, then I'd say
the
> material is in the public domain which is why Buzzard can keep on
releasing
> it. I have a few of his compilation cassettes and I'm glad he's made this
> stuff available. Plan B would be to travel the backroads of the south and
> try to get to attic-fulls of 78's before he does. I'll take plan A.
>
Because virtually all artists on 78 (especially before 1943-4) were
paid a fixed fee to record, the recordings were/are considered "works
for hire" and as such all the rights belong to the party who did the
paying unless a contract states otherwise (which seldom happened in
those early days).

Also, note that the product of "orphan labels" is not exactly in the
public domain. If a work is in the public domain, that means that any
party can do as they wish with it; OTOH, a work can be under copyright
but either there is no one to sue for infringement or that party can
elect not to sue (I'm not sure if this would affect subsequent suits!).
This could be important in determining copyright to subsequent
reissues of the work.

Note that it is only in the case of Caruso that an early recording
artist or his heirs/assigns have rights and control of the body of
recorded work!

Steven C. Barr