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]

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Happy New Year from LIS Lady!

Happy New Year readers! I am now officially an MLIS or Master of Library and Information Science. Woot! My degree was awarded on December 22, 2010 by San Jose State University. Yay, me. This next year will bring a job search and other projects. For January, I will begin as dramaturg for the Chabot College Theater Department’s spring production of The Grapes of Wrath. Additionally, I will work on a statement to submit to the U.S. Copyright Office regarding the possibility of bringing pre-1972 sound recordings under federal protection. This will tie in to work performed Summer 2010 as part of my internship at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, and my research proposal developed Fall 2010, while finishing my MLIS. So my new year is off to a jump start. I hope you will join me along the way, as I blog about my professional life adventures.

Stephanie Roach is LIS Lady, the Library and Information Science Lady

Stephanie Roach is LIS Lady, the Library and Information Science Lady

Fall 2010 at SJSU SLIS: Week 2

Much better than week 1. Much, much better. Sigh of relief.

I’ve turned in my first assignment, read the required readings, and feel settled into the fall semester. I’m way more organized and finally can get a grip. The major hiccup for me during week 2 was the discovery of a vampire novella, Dinner With a Vampire. Did I mention I’m Vegetarian?, available online at Wattpad, an eBook community. I only have Twitter to blame for alerting me to the story in 140 characters or less (and myself, of course, for following the link, retweeting it myself, and getting sucked in). I spent a day obsessively reading a story about a teenage girl who is kidnapped by hot teenage vampires. Seriously, this gives the traditional captivity narrative a new twist. Twisted, but fun. Seriously guilty pleasure. I had to cut myself off, though. I haven’t finished reading it, so I still don’t know how it ends. Does she get away? Does she get turned into a vampire? Is it all a dream? Who knows. Maybe I’ll read more for Labor Day. Gotta love three day weekends. Although, three day weekends have little meaning in the online classes environment. I mean, my assignment was due Sunday night. Weekend-interruptus syndrome. Oh well.

As for school, I’ve been thinking about my research methods course. I’ll have to write a research proposal this semester which I may link to my summer internship at GTU. I interned at the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library and did a lot of research on copyright issues for pre-1972 sound recordings. I’d like to find out how other organizations are handling this issue, and specifically if the complexity of intellectual property law for this particular class of resources does indeed hamper efforts at digitization and digital preservation. Of course, I don’t know what research if any exists on this topic, but I expect if this becomes my topic, I will soon find out. I also know from experience how daunting the intellectual property issues are.

I’ll be refining my research proposal idea over the coming week. I’m sure I’ll have more to add by then.

As for other projects, not much progress yet. My fall internship for Bancroft Library in Berkeley still hasn’t started. My ePortfolio (thesis project) is slow going, but at least it is going. And I plug away little by little at understanding and using RDA to catalog with MARC. All of these will be ramping up soon, and I will be very very busy.

Holy moly. This fall semester is going to be nuts. But oh, how I like me some nuts!

Coming to a Close: Summer Digitization Internship

My summer digitization internship at the Graduate Theological Union‘s Flora Lamson Hewlett Library, has been different than expected. But as it comes to a close, I’ve reviewed my anticipated learning outcomes, and realize that I’ve met my goals. I started with a wild list of possible learning outcomes, that no one could possibly meet in one short summer. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed and I pared the list down to three fairly specific goals:

  1. Competently use equipment and software for 1) the digitization of reel-to-reel audio tapes and 2) the management of digital files online in accordance with industry standards and best practices.
  2. Plan, assess and create descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata in order to support the discovery, management, and preservation of digital files.
  3. Demonstrate competence in applying knowledge of legal and ethical issues surrounding intellectual property in the management of digital collections in the online environment.

By tailoring the list so specifically, I was able to self direct my activities to a certain degree and spend the time it took (a luxury I realize working professionals don’t always have) to review material and learn about new aspects of the project, rather than flailing from task to task without direction. Of course, my site supervisor at the GTU Library, Melodie Frances, would never have let me fall into that trap in the first place. Fortunately for me, she allowed me to work independently, thus gaining confidence, and was ready and willing to listen to the knowledge I brought to the table, as many of the areas I was researching were new to her as well. Well, primarily the area of copyright. She had been involved with project metadata and digitization long before I arrived at her library. The intellectual property issues surrounding the project are a different cup of tea, however, and I will discuss my third learning outcome below.

Copyright for pre-1972 sound recordings, as I’ve posted before, is tricky stuff. Federal copyright law only applies to any underlying works on the recording such as a musical composition or poem, not to the actual recording itself. Seriously, this complicates matters. As a result, state law fills the gap, and protects the recording with criminal and civil antipiracy statutes, as well as state common law, including common law copyright (relating to the right of first publication), unfair competition & misappropriation, conversion, and unauthorized distribution. Additionally, rights of privacy and publicity can apply as well. And then of course, there is no guarantee which particular state’s laws will apply in a given case, as it is possible and highly likely for the laws from more than one state to apply, particularly when there are multiple copyright holders.

So what is a library or archive to do? There is hardly a circumstance where recordings are in the public domain. Clearly, one must attempt to get permission in good faith. But what about orphan works where the rights holder cannot be ascertained or found? Is it a safe bet to assess the risk, make sure that any intended use is not for commercial gain (directly or indirectly), and make it accessible online? Or is it best to wait until 2067 when the work enters the public domain? Waiting until 2067 just seems like too long a wait. Hopefully orphan works legislation will be passed before then, although I’m not holding my breath.

The whole issue is seriously complicated. I am finishing a paper about unpublished pre-1972 sound recordings for my internship. It is an assessment of current documentation at the GTU Library, the specific needs of the Jesuit Tape Collection, and recommendations for steps to take going forward with the digitization project. These poor tapes are at the end of their life span, and will not wait until 2067. For preservation sake, the digitization has to happen now. Fortunately, there is little risk with this. The problem is of course access. And what good is a historically significant tape collection, if few may access and use it?

One of the major advantages of digitizing a collection is increasing access to a wider audience while at the same time reducing wear and tear on the original, already damaged tapes during use. Magnetic reel-to-reel tapes just don’t last as long as some other materials.

Too bad intellectual property law is not up to date with the digital age of online access. I hope to see some positive changes to this as I move from intern to MLIS to professional.

It’s Getting Hot in Here: Interning at Home, Studying Copyright

So, it is hot today and I’m at home instead of my library internship site. And my apartment doesn’t have air conditioning, and feels more like a hothouse. Yuck. I am sweaty and hot. Today, the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library (GTU Library) at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU)–my digitization internship site–is upgrading to a new system server, and I’ve agreed to work from home, which is always a dangerous proposition–so many distractions, my husband included. Also, my sister is pregnant and will give birth any day now, and I am constantly checking my phone for updates. In favor of clear focus however, I’m all caught up on my Netflix cue, so I’m really ready to go to work, and have decided to do so.

I’m thinking about my internship and realize I’d better get crackin’ on my copyright research for tomorrow. One of my tasks is to do a copyright assessment for the Jesuit Tape Collection (JTC) digitization project. I’ve reviewed and summarized current GTU and GTU Library documentation regarding intellectual property–mostly copyright stuff. However, the JTC involves pre-1972 sound recordings which are particularly troublesome, because although they are not protected by federal copyright law due to a loophole created by historical precedence (thanks piano roll!), state laws have filled the void to varying degrees. And all this is of course, ridiculously complex, apparently even for legal experts.

So I’ve been reading and reading. About copyright law in general, and about pre-1972 sound recordings specifically. Today I hope to add to my report, fleshing out the details that need to be taken into consideration by the GTU Library when planning for streaming the digitized files. I’ve got a few hours of work ahead of me, and tomorrow it will probably be back to planning metadata for compound objects in CONTENTdm. So, I’ll endure the heat, and move forward onto the tangled path that is copyright law, this evening. I’m sure I’ll be reading this stuff for days on my own time. Here are a few good resources:

Besek, J. M. (2009, March).  Copyright and related issues relevant to digital preservation and dissemination of unpublished pre-1972 sound recordings by libraries and archives. Available from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR): Publication 144

Besek, J. M. (2005, December).  Copyright issues relevant to digital preservation and dissemination of pre-1972 commercial sound recordings by libraries and archives. Available from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR): Publication 135

Jaszi, P. & Lewis, N. (2009, September). Protection for pre-1972 sound recordings under state law and its impact on use by nonprofit institutions: A 10-state analysis. Available from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR): Publication 146