Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The High Cost of Copyright

The High Cost of Copyright: [...] The National Jazz Museum (who knew there was such a thing?) has apparently acquired a true treasure trove of early jazz recordings. The collection — nearly 1,000 discs! — was recorded in the 30s and 40s by William Savory from on-the-air radio broadcasts, and includes performances by Lester Young, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, and many others of the great names of jazz [...] So needless to say I can’t wait to hear the reissues. But alas, that may never happen. [...] [T]he potential copyright liability that could attach to redistribution of these recordings is so large — and, more importantly, so uncertain — that there may never be a public distribution of the recordings. Tracking down all the parties who may have a copyright interest in these performances, and therefore an entitlement to royalty payments (or to enjoining their distribution), is a monumental, and quite possibly an impossible, task, and it may well be that nobody steps forward with the resources to (a) undertake the efforts required and (b) take on the risk of liability (Via Ezra Klein).

The increasing gap between what our technologies make possible and what our institutions permit is a huge missed opportunity: less learning, less enjoyment, less creation, less culture than could be. When politicians talk about the importance of education, new skills, new industries, they seem to ignore how our legal regime stands in the way of achieving those goals. Will we ever outgrow the laws of print, sheet music, and weaving machines?


steve said...

Copyright has been a particular frustration of mine. It is fun to note some creative product areas where copyright is non-existant or at least used very differently ... fashion is one and it is much larger as a business than entertainment. Johanna Blakely gave an engaging high level view of the subject in a TED talk

Fernando Pereira said...

If Chuck Schumer et al have their way, fashion could go the way of entertainment (