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Copyright and Sound Recordings

Recommendations for Changes to the United States Copyright Law

Legal Impediments to Preservation of and Access to the Audio Heritage of the United States [pdf]

The Copyright and Fair Use Committee has developed five specific recommended changes in U.S. copyright law to assure that our rich audio heritage is preserved and accessible and that it remains available for generations to come, while protecting the legitimate interests of the artists and enterprises that created this national treasure.

These recommendations have been endorsed by six major scholarly organizations, and ARSC welcomes the support of others as well. The recommendations are as follows.

  • Place pre-1972 U.S. recordings under a single, understandable national law by repealing section 301(c ) of Title 17, U.S. Code, the provision that currently keeps pre-1972 recordings under state law until 2067.
  • Harmonize the term of coverage for U.S. recordings with that of most foreign countries, i.e. a term of between 50 and 75 years.
  • Legalize the use of orphan recordings, those for which no owner can be located.
  • Permit and encourage the reissue by third parties of "abandoned" recordings, those that remain out of print for extended periods, with appropriate compensation to the copyright owners.
  • Change U.S. copyright laws to allow the use of current technology and best practices in the preservation of sound recordings by non-profit institutions.


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