Many music lovers intrigued by the National Jazz Museum’s collection of newly discovered recordings wonder when they will be able to hear more than the samples on the museum’s website. Under current law, there is little likelihood that the music will be generally available in most of our lifetimes. That will change only if Congress loosens copyright restrictions. As an editorial in today’s New York Times explains,
Copyright laws are designed to ensure that authors and performers receive compensation for their labors without fear of theft and to encourage them to continue their work. The laws are not intended to provide income for generations of an author’s heirs, particularly at the cost of keeping works of art out of the public’s reach.
The Savory collection, like other sound recordings made before 1972, is covered by a patchwork of state copyright and piracy laws that in some cases allow copyrights to remain until the year 2067.
The editorial goes on to urge Congress to create exceptions in cases like those of many of the recordings in the Savory collection. To read all of the Times opinion piece, go here.
It makes sense that if slackening the copyright leash on a work of art causes no financial harm to its creator, the work should be made available to the public. If those “new” solos by Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins are as stunning as the few people who have listened to them say they are, let us hear them.