I think it would be wonderful to have some of the older sound recordings in the public domain... please feel free to provide your comments via the links below (not to me here, please!)
November 4, 2010
Important Copyright Reform Development
We are at a significant moment in ARSC's long fight to reform U.S. copyright law. As a direct result of ARSC-sponsored legislation, the U.S. Copyright Office has undertaken a study of the "desirability and means" of bringing recordings made before 1972 under federal (rather than state) copyright law. Among other things, this would establish for the first time a public domain for the oldest recordings in the U.S.
There is a short window during which the public may submit comments on this proposal. All comments will be posted on the internet and will be considered in the Copyright Office's report to Congress. This is a rare opportunity for all those concerned with preservation and access to be heard. The deadline for public comment is December 20, 2010. Following that there will be a thirty day period during which "reply comments" (comments on the comments) may be submitted (until January 19, 2011) .
You can be assured that interest groups in Washington will avail themselves of this opportunity to advocate for their positions. ARSC and various library organizations will also be commenting. However it is vital that the Copyright Office hear from as many citizens as possible, archivists and collectors, professionals and non-professionals alike, not only to hear the reasons why people care about preserving and making accessible historical recordings, but also so they can gauge the breadth of support for change.
The Copyright Office has posted an official Notice of Inquiry on its website at www.copyright.gov/docs/sound. It is lengthy and somewhat legalistic, including 30 specific questions in which the CO is interested. However it is important to remember that comments may take any form you wish and may be from anyone - they simply need to relate to the "desirability and means" of bringing pre-1972 recordings under federal law to promote preservation and access. You can get an idea of the types of comments typically submitted by viewing those submitted in the "Orphan Works" inquiry a few years ago, at www.copyright.gov/orphan/comments/index.html. (More than 700 were submitted in that inquiry.) Particularly valuable are examples of the harm done by current law.
More information on the subject, and ARSC's position, is at www.recordingcopyright.org. Basically we believe that this change will benefit both users and rights holders. It is only the first step in ARSC's program of five recommended changes, but it is a critical one because none of the others are feasible until older recordings are brought under unified federal law.
The Copyright Committee urges you to take advantage of this unusual, and limited, opportunity for public comment by going to www.copyright.gov/docs/sound and registering your comments, no matter how detailed or brief they may be. The more people the government hears from, the better.
Chair, ARSC Copyright and Fair Use Committee