The Library of Congress has released a sobering new report ( http://www.clir.org/pubs/abstract/pub148abst.html ) on the state of digital audio preservation in the United States.
Older artifacts face the prospect of being lost to posterity because of our nation's copyright laws. So concludes The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age (PDF; http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub148/pub148.pdf ).
The main problem is that for decades the intellectual property rights of most sound recordings were covered not by federal law, but by a complicated matrix of state statutes and judicial precedents. When Congress finally did extend federal authority over these works via its late twentieth century Copyright Acts, it put the annulment date for the earlier rules at 2067.
"Thus, a published US sound recording created in 1890 will not enter the public domain until 177 years after its creation," the study observes.
ARS Technica: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/10/report-copyright-laws-put-americas-sound-heritage-at-risk.ars