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Musings of a librarian, former archivist, musician, bibliophile, and tech-obsessed.

Entries in Copyright (7)


A Few Personal Thoughts on Copyright

Many concerns have surfaced among librarians and archivists concerning creating and maintaining digital collections. Before pursuing digitization, these custodians must first assure that the collections they are sharing with a growing global community are either in the public domain or owned by their institution. Digitizing by these guidelines protects institutions from costly lawsuits from creators or copyright owners, and saves valuable resources if projects have to be taken offline due to copyright infringements.

Proving ownership of copyright is especially difficult in sound recordings. Archivists and librarians are burdened by proving works-for-hire, copyright chain of custody (in which the heirs can assume ownership), copyright of unpublished works, and dealing with potentially orphaned published materials in their collections. According to current copyright law, archivists and librarians cannot preserve materials until they show signs of deterioration; sound recordings are frequently too deteriorated to preserve and digitize by this point. Without assuring that collections can be made freely accessible after digitization, many granting agencies will not fund digitization projects, placing a further burden on cultural institutions.

Nationally, the US Copyright Act of 1976 protects the copyright of materials, including that of sound recordings. Allowances for libraries and archives include fair use and the reproductions by libraries and archives, Sections 107 and 108, accordingly, though exemptions in both of these sections exist for sound recordings. All post-1976 recordings are protected for at least 95 years. Currently, recordings made before this point will begin to fall into the public domain in 2067. With the exception of recordings created by the Federal government, there are currently no sound recordings in the public domain in the United States.

The United States possessed some of the most strict copyright law in the international community until recently. In September 2011, the European Union extended sound recording copyright 20 additional years, from a 50- to a 70-year term. This law was changed in part due to recording companies and a few select artists, though many scholars and economists disagreed with the decision. This extension was only slightly less damaging than the extension proposed in 2006 that would have made the limit 95 years. Australia, another leader in the library and archival sphere, has a 70-year protection limit on sound recordings, though audio broadcasts are only protected for 50 years.

In many academic institutions, we hold materials from other countries. When I did an internship at the Bulgarian and Macedonian National Education and Cultural Center while I was at the University of Pittsburgh, I had to look up the copyright restrictions on their recordings, which were so precious because many of them were smuggled out of the region due to civil wars, and may be the only extant or one of the few existing copies. One of the major difficulties of creating digital collections that can be accessed globally is that some materials may be under copyright in their country of origin but not in other countries. Librarians, archivists, and other cultural custodians across the globe should continue to petition for copyright term limits that protect the material, allow for preventative preservation, and protect the interests of artists.


Recent Developments in Copyright, December 2011

Copying a message from the Library of Congress's Copyright Office:

The Copyright Office has received proposals for classes of works to be exempted from the prohibition on circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. This is the first step in the Office's triennial rulemaking under 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)(C)-(D). The Office will soon announce the early February 2012 deadline for submission of comments supporting and opposing the proposals as well as the early March 2012 deadline for submission of reply comments. The proposals may be found on the Copyright Office website at

For those who are interested in copyright, especially audiovisual, telecommunications, and software/firmware copyright, I encourage you to read through these statements that may effect your job and our profession. At the very least read the statements made by the leading institutions and organizations, who will have a louder voice in the debate.



Better Late than Never...

So, due to my move in late January and the typical postal service, I did not receive my winter 2011 ARSC newsletter until yesterday. There were some great articles in it about new developments in recording cataloging such as the AudioMD and VideoMD metadata schemas and the Library of Congress genre/form heading updates. I believe I have commented on these developments in previous blog entries. What I did find exciting, however, are the new developments with ARSC's initiatives with pre-1972 recording copyright. Additional organizations have supported the effort to place these recordings in the public domain. The Office of Copyright will soon be issuing their report, which will be discussed at the ARSC conference in May (another reason I wish I could go). The site, has additional information on these developments.

I hope the Office of Copyright listens to us and understands what archivists and librarians are try to do--we don't want to cut into future profits for the RIAA, we want to preserve the sounds of the past.

SAA is also getting involved in the copyright discussion.


Why Care About Audio Recording Copyright?

As I posted in this article yesterday, US audio recording copyright is hindering audio preservation. This isn't new news to all of the audio archivists and enthusiasts that have tried to preserve legacy material (pre-1972) only to have a governing body tell us to stop because we could be sued.

What can we do?

Read more about the Historical Recording Coalition for Access and Preservation (HRCAP) to find out about what is going on in the world of audio copyright and the developments with Congress and the US Copyright Office.


Who Owns What?

Archivists in academia:

This is a little story that spans two audio visual archivists, other archivists, two music librarians, some technical people from the university computing center, and one retired music professor. With that many interested parties, it had to be complicated. But if you think about it, there were just a whole lot of people who wanted to preserve the records in various capacities, for various reasons, which is a really good thing.

Anyway, the professor took the reel to reels recorded of his ensemble home when he retired because he felt they were his. (He should have owned copies, but unfortunately, at that time, only one copy was made.) The music librarians heard about this, and tried to get them back for the university, but that didn't work. Then, the professor approached the university computing center for help digitizing the reels, so he could have CDs of them instead because they took up a rather large amount of space. They computing center said "sure!" but they would have to do it in their spare time, which at a small university means they sat there for a while and were almost completely forgotten about. The music librarians told the first audio visual archivist about these reels (when the position was finally created), and the first a/v archivist tried as hard as he could and went nowhere because at that time the archives was not equipped to digitize audio, and the computing center wanted to do it. Then a slight staff change was made, in the computing center and the archives, and the second a/v archivist (me), after two years of work, and working with the music librarians and the computing center had the boxes of reels transferred to the archives, as part of a plan to digitize them!


This raises a larger issue many university archivists face that with certain faculty and staff--they do not technically own the records, the university and department does. I totally understand where they're coming from, because this is their work, or they helped create it, but it would do a lot more good if the records were preserved in a centralized location for the future members of the department and other researchers to use them (the university archives). I know this problem spans across universities, and it is our job as university archivists to make sure the legacy of the university lasts forever and is not lost. I was wondering how other university archivists have talked to these faculty and accessioned the records? Do you have a hard time getting the original records from them? Do you ever get the records from them?