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Government Music United States

Why Recordings From World War I Aren't Public Domain 329

Posted by samzenpus
from the that-old-timey-sound dept.
An anonymous reader writes "While Disney and others have done a great job pushing the end date for works entering the public domain ever further forward, most people have assumed that anything from before 1923 is in the public domain. However, it turns out that this is not true for sound recordings, in part due to an accidental quirk in copyright law history — in that Congress, way back in 1909, believed that sound recordings could not be covered by copyright (they believed the Constitution did not allow recordings to be covered), and thus, some state laws stepped up to create special copyrights for sound recordings. A court ruling then said that these state rules were not overruled by federal copyright law. End result? ANY recorded work from before 1972 (no matter how early it was recorded) won't go into the public domain until 2049 at the earliest."
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Why Recordings From World War I Aren't Public Domain

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  • Re:That's a shame. (Score:4, Informative)

    by ciderbrew (1860166) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @07:04AM (#33148576)
    UK I found this.

    How long does copyright last for?
    Copyright generally lasts for the lifetime of the creator and then to the end of the 70th year afterwards. So for Elgar, say, who died in 1934, his original music came out of copyright in 2005. However copyright also exists in the editing, arrangement and reconstruction of previous music compositions and only expires 70 years after the death of the editor, etc. Copyright in recordings lasts for 50 years.

    http://www.thefrms.co.uk/copyright.htm [thefrms.co.uk]
  • Re:That's a shame. (Score:3, Informative)

    by IBBoard (1128019) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @07:04AM (#33148578) Homepage

    I've been threatened over trademark because of international agreements (trademark of a descriptive phrase that I was using in a descriptive manner) so the WIPO treaties probably do allow international copyright claims as well. If nothing else, you won't be able to put it up on YouTube if any of the content is American because you're treading in their legal territory.

  • Re:That's a shame. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Threni (635302) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @07:19AM (#33148644)

    No, we're not bound by foreign laws when on UK ground. Look at Naxos, the record label which sells historical recordings, although some are considered piracy in the US. So Americans can't buy them, and are instead forced to resort to..uh..piracy if they want them. It's a funny old world, isn't it.

  • Re:Guiltless thief. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2010 @07:26AM (#33148690)

    News flash: Copyright existed, and should exist, to allow an individual to profit from their creation

    ... for a limited time. Odds are that the "artist" doing the recordings during WW I isn't alive, and won't certainly be alive in 2049. I'm not advocating rampant piracy, but let's get real about the intended nature of copyright.

  • Trademark and copyright are completely separate systems. Arguments from one do not copy over to the other.

    But the publishers of mass-market works of authorship set in fictional universes, who license the trademarks and copyrights related to a fictional universe as a unit, want end users to forget how separate these systems of exclusive rights are. So they use phrases such as "intellectual property" that confuse the two [gnu.org].

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday August 05, 2010 @08:00AM (#33148930) Homepage Journal

    receiving a copy of something isn't copying

    The exhaustion of exclusive rights after the first sale of a phonorecord (17 USC 109) applies only after the first sale on United States soil (17 USC 602).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2010 @08:12AM (#33149038)

    Sounds like a work can go public domain wherever is was created and everywhere else in the world *except* the US, or in some collection of states thereof.

    FTFA: "Note that state protection is afforded even to European recordings, most of which enter the public domain in their home country after 50 years."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2010 @09:16AM (#33149558)

    It doesn't work that way any more (if it ever even did). When I go to the voting booth, I get to choose between copyright extension supporter A and copyright extension supporter B. No thanks. I'll just copy freely and under the radar, like many, many more people do.

  • Re:That's a shame. (Score:3, Informative)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @09:22AM (#33149620) Homepage

    Under international treaty, all copyright laws are local.

    In the US, US copyright law applies (or their local state's copyright law, it seems), regardless of where the material was created.

    In the UK, UK copyright law applies, regardless.

    In Albania, Albanian copyright law applies, regardless.

    Et cetera.

  • Re:Guiltless thief. (Score:3, Informative)

    by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Thursday August 05, 2010 @09:26AM (#33149662) Homepage Journal

    News flash: Copyright existed, and should exist, to allow an individual to profit from their creation. It has not a damned thing to do with producing useful art. The production of useful art is a result of the desire to PROFIT.

    News flash: you're an uninformed troll who's never read what Copyright exists for.

    Copyright is designed to create a temporary monetary gain to encourage the creation of works for the greater good in the public domain.

    Copyright is not an implicit human right, its an artificial incentive to allow artists to gain renumeration for their efforts for a limited time. Go do a bit of public domain reading yourself. From copyright.gov [copyright.gov]:

    August 18, 1787
    James Madison submitted to the framers of the Constitution a provision “to secure to literary authors their copyrights for a limited time.”

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday August 05, 2010 @09:29AM (#33149690) Homepage Journal

    actually he means works will be under copyright in the states that passed the law.

  • by Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @09:48AM (#33149942)

    Stopped reading at the first sentence.

    Copyrights are NOT property rights. Read what the Constitution says about the purpose of copyright.

  • Re:Guiltless thief. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2010 @09:51AM (#33149974)

    What the hell does the Constitution have to do with this discussion?

    Sigh... [usconstitution.net]

    "The Congress shall have Power [...] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

  • by tgd (2822) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @10:05AM (#33150170)

    I don't believe its that black and white.

    If you are a CA citizen and commit a crime in NY, you can be extradited from CA to NY.

    If you harm me in NY, I can file suit against you in NY and if you don't show up to the trial, you lose.

    If you violate my copyright in NY (assuming NY has these laws), if I can convince a judge that the jurisdiction that your action injured me in was NY (because I was injured and that is where I was) and thus NY has jurisdiction, I can file a lawsuit. You can pay a lawyer to fight for a change in jurisdiction, assuming you have the money for that ... but you may lose.

    So don't assume you're safe.

  • Re:That's a shame. (Score:3, Informative)

    by green1 (322787) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @10:36AM (#33150650)

    If the copyright owner decides that they want the recordings back, then you will probably have to turn it over to them.

    While the first part of your post was spot on, I don't believe this to be the case.
    The owner of the copyright can sue you if you make copies of this material or if you play it for an audience, but there is nothing at all that they can do to force you to turn over the material to them, or even provide them a copy. If they didn't think it valuable enough to keep a copy (or the originals) for themselves, that's their fault, not yours.

  • by tverbeek (457094) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @12:38PM (#33152134) Homepage

    A job counts as "some source of income". It was enough for my parents. And theirs. And so on. Somehow, we've managed for generations without the patronage of a rich ancestor! I'm sure that our descendants will also.

    (And in most of the civilized world, you can get a decent-to-excellent education even without your parents having a job.)

  • Re:Guiltless pirate. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Thursday August 05, 2010 @01:55PM (#33153266) Homepage

    That's not whats being said. He is taking this on a personal level. There is a mechanism for protesting these laws - appeals, lawsuits, higher courts, legislation, etc.

    Even Cicero knew a thousand and change years ago that even when unjust laws were past, that the courts would turn around and agree that the state has the right. Unjust laws are a matter of perspective, but it seems to me that there's a clear number of people worldwide that agree that the current state of copyright is bad. Especially if we go by the tired RIAA stats.

    There is also a difference between laws on a populace, and laws of populace. The two of which you're confusing.

  • Re:That's a shame. (Score:3, Informative)

    by AndersOSU (873247) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @02:35PM (#33153726)

    Check with a copyright attorney.

    The summary and TFA are a little overblown. Works made between 1923 and 1972 might not enter the public domain in some states (probably California) before 2049 at the earliest, but it may already be in the public domain in other states. On the one hand, since New York was and still is a hub of the radio and entertainment industry they may have made a special provision for copyrighting audio recordings. On the other, it may be permissible to drive over the bridge to New Jersey and copy it there.

    In fact a great deal of the reasoning in Goldstein v. California relies on the fact that pre-1972 audio recording copyright varies from state to state in order for it not to run afoul of the supremacy clause.

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