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Report warns that Copyright Act threatens recorded sound preservation

Joseph L. Flatley
October 7, 2010
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A new report issued by the Library of Congress entitled The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age, has some sobering findings on the state of historic audio, whether on vinyl, wax cylinders, or optical disc: namely, that it's "at risk." What does that mean, exactly? It seems that a combination of antiquated copyright laws and a wide array of digital formats means that libraries are often unable to back up its holdings (even when it is legal to do so). "Were the law strictly enforced," the report explains, "it would brand virtually all audio preservation as illegal." It goes on to detail steps that could be taken to fix these problems, were lawmakers not too busy grandstanding and cozying up to special interest groups, including: reformation of the Copyright Act, decriminalizing the use of orphan works for which no rights holder can be established, establish a legal way for third parties to reissue long out-of-print "abandoned recordings," and establishing legal ways for libraries to more easily make audio copies and share files.

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