Anyone used a recording from 1922 or earlier? at DVinfo.net

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Old March 29th, 2009, 08:04 PM   #1
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Anyone used a recording from 1922 or earlier?

Just curious since 1922 and earlier are in the public domain. If so where did you get it? I was thinking of buying an old victrola and recording some old scratchy tunes to have some background music I'm doing on a public access program. All comments, thoughts, concerns appreciated.

Also, I don't suppose you can use it, but what about using work that someone else remastered? Like Al Jolson's Down by The Ohio

Last edited by Matt Buys; March 29th, 2009 at 08:15 PM. Reason: Another question.
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Old March 30th, 2009, 08:52 AM   #2
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Maybe some here in old radio shows

Internet Archive: Audio Archive
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Old April 4th, 2009, 11:18 AM   #3
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My understanding is that even though the song is in the public domain the actual recording, no matter how old, is likely under copyright protection. I just filmed/recorded some antique music boxes (metal discs and piano rolls) as part of a museum DVD and am trying to find out if these are considered "recordings" and are copyright-free.
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Old April 4th, 2009, 12:22 PM   #4
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Arthur, thanks for replying. Where did you get your info on that. I've been googling and googling but can't find anything either way.
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Old April 4th, 2009, 12:29 PM   #5
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From the Wikipedia article on Copyright, regarding sound recordings ...

" no sound recording can reliably be considered in the public domain in the United States before that date [2067], even if the recording was in existence before 1923 and even if it originated in another country where it has entered the public domain."

Remember there are separate copyrights for the music and for recordings of it. The 1922 and earlier test applies to the copyright on the music - words and melody - but NOT to recordings of the music. I've read articles where some museums and archives have run into trouble trying to make copies of Edison cylinders recorded in the late 1800's and early 1900's because the recordings were still under copyright. Before 1972, sound recordings not federally copyright at all and instead were governed by state statute and common law. The terms of protection varied widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The changes to the Federal law in 1972 created copyright for recordings made after that date but left the original conditions in place for recordings made before then.

Here's a link to an interesting page on recording copyright issues at the UC Santa Barbara Edison collection ... http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/copyright.php
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Old April 4th, 2009, 09:17 PM   #6
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Steve, you are the bearer of bad news. I've just acquired a huge library of pre 1922 music. Having said that, better that you be the bearer than the shark variety.

I mistakingly assumed that music was similar to Art (Monet, Van Gogh, etc.,) that I could use old recordings in a series I'm doing for the local public access without problems. Thanks.
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Old April 5th, 2009, 05:06 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Matt Buys View Post
Steve, you are the bearer of bad news. I've just acquired a huge library of pre 1922 music. Having said that, better that you be the bearer than the shark variety.

I mistakingly assumed that music was similar to Art (Monet, Van Gogh, etc.,) that I could use old recordings in a series I'm doing for the local public access without problems. Thanks.
You can use the music, but maybe not the recordings. Then again, maybe you can. I learned today on that UCSB site that the Edison estate donated the Edison Company Recording library to the US National Park service upon his death, making all those specific recordings now in the public domain. But the archive project has also remastered some of them and those remastered versions are copyright. Other recordings from other companies from the same period may still be copyright but others may be public domain. This sounds like a job for a music rights clearance service to find out which is which.

Interesting about using Art -even that is not so cut-and-dried. While the artwork itself may well be public domain, the reproduction you are using as your source material can be copyright on its own merit. You can certainly make your own photograph of Mona Lisa (assuming the Louvre lets you make the picture) and reproduce it without any copyright issues arising. But if the Louvre makes a reproduction and you obtain a copy of it or if you copy an image of the Mona Lisa out of an art history book, like the remasterings I mentioned above those reproductions can carry their own independent copyrights and you may need to obtain proper licensing to further reproduce them.
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Old April 5th, 2009, 06:37 AM   #8
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Thanks Steve, I will check into the Edison's. Some of the stuff I have is from a friend recording old songs from an upright Edison. Maybe I can use those.

Crazy to think a recording on wax from the late 1800's can get you sued. If I write and record a little ditty that somebody wants to use a 120 years from now, I hope I don't climb out of my grave to sue them. Maybe Tarantino and Rodriguez could do a movie about it. Pulp Litigator.

I was just in the Louvre taking pictures of many paintings and sculptures. The Mona Lisa shots are the worst because of all that armored glass. I was upset that on that particular day hundreds of people were using flash photography, while the gaurds did nothing.

Just a little different than the National Gallery in London which locks down a room the moment a flash is detected.
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Old April 5th, 2009, 09:35 PM   #9
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Matt, I hear you! The idea that these old piano rolls and perforated metal discs containing public domain songs are under copyright is obscene. I just finished a museum shoot and filmed a demonstration of six antique music boxes and the idea that I have to track down and get copyright clearance for six one-minute tunes (the companies that made the discs/rolls don't even exist anymore!) makes my blood boil. Maybe I'll just use ten or fifteen seconds of each song and call it "fair use." This music box section will be less than five minutes of a one-hour DVD so it's not as though I'm selling the music.

I see you're in the neighborhood. I'm down in Highlands.
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Old April 5th, 2009, 09:54 PM   #10
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Arthur, I'm right down the road. I was hoping to use stuff from pre-22 for URTV. No money is even involved. Just something fun.

I don't feel your pain because your pain has to be far worse than mine. How do you even begin to track down the copyright holder for a century old wax recording from a company that doesn't exist?
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Old April 6th, 2009, 04:52 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Arthur Hancock View Post
Matt, I hear you! The idea that these old piano rolls and perforated metal discs containing public domain songs are under copyright is obscene. I just finished a museum shoot and filmed a demonstration of six antique music boxes and the idea that I have to track down and get copyright clearance for six one-minute tunes (the companies that made the discs/rolls don't even exist anymore!) makes my blood boil. Maybe I'll just use ten or fifteen seconds of each song and call it "fair use." This music box section will be less than five minutes of a one-hour DVD so it's not as though I'm selling the music.

I see you're in the neighborhood. I'm down in Highlands.
Fair use is not dependent on the amount of a piece that is used but rather the purpose of the use. And if you're using it in a DVD or other production that you're selling, you're selling the music. But I think it's unlikely that music boxes are considered phonorecordings subject to independent copyright and if the music was published before 1923 the music itself, ie the melody, would be public domain so I doubt you need to worry about it Piano rolls, since they're a mechanical record of an actual performance, might be another story. That's what attorneys are paid to reseach for you. Best consult one.
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