LIS Lady’s Statement on Federal Copyright Protection of Pre-1972 Sound Recordings [PDF]

The U.S. Copyright Office, under direction from Congress is conducting a study on the “desirability and means of bringing sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972, under Federal jurisdiction,” particularly as it relates to the ability of cultural heritage institutions to preserve and provide access to this class of recordings. For those of you not in the know, this class of recordings is not currently protected by Federal law, and instead is covered by a bevy of conflicting and confusing State statutory, criminal, and common laws. Unfortunately, this means that nearly no pre-1972 sound recordings are in the public domain in the United States.  This is problematic for libraries and archives charged with caring for and ensuring continued preservation of and access to these recordings.

This topic is near and dear to me, as it relates directly to my summer internship at the Graduate Theological Union’s Flora Lamson Hewlett Library, where I assessed intellectual property concerns and developed metadata requirements for the digitization of a pre-1972 sound recording collection. Further, I developed a research proposal on the topic for my Research Methods course. I appreciated the opportunity to submit my comments to the U.S. Copyright Office.

The extended deadline for submitting comments to the U.S. Copyright Office was today, and replies to the comments will be open until March 2, 2011. Attached is my statement to the U.S. Copyright Office.

LIS Lady’s Statement – [PDF]

Update 2/1/2011:

The US Copyright Office has now posted the comments regarding Federal protection of pre-1972 sound recordings. Mine is Comment No. 53:

UPDATE 11/12/2012:

The US Copyright Office has posted its response in support of placing this class of sound recordings under federal copyright regime. The executive summary, final report, and other documentation of the study are available at:

Reel label.

An example of a reel-to-reel tape from the Graduate Theological Union’s Jesuit Tape Collection. This type of sound recording will now fall under the copyright protection of the federal government, which will ease funding and digital preservation barriers that develop as a result of complex copyright law.


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