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.
I completely agree with you, Doug! — What I heard at the site so far, especially Pres on “Tea For Two”, and the really outstanding, and funny blues with Big T; Fats, and Pops (in full length by the way!) … well, it made me scream for more, more, and more.
The sound quality is amazing, and fans, or musicians like me (still a fan too) have to get the chance to hear them folks jam on pieces, longer than just 3 minutes.
If there are these strict copyright laws in the US, why are there all those umpteen releases of hitherto (the late 1970’s) “unheard” big band music on Hindsight? Where’s the difference between those, and the newly discovered recordings / transcriptions?
Jon Foley says
As I said in part of my comment in the Times on the original story, “I predict that greed on the part of distant relatives of some of the artists involved will prevent much of this from ever being released. They’ll insist on huge amounts of money for the rights to this music – music that they had nothing to do with creating.”
Yes, I’m a cynic – it’s always worked for me.
We need to hear this music and be made available to the public. I also agree with you as well on this matter.
Jack Bowers says
The copyright laws, in a word, suck. To put it another way, they are absurdly ridiculous. Aside from that, I have no problem with them.
Ed Leimbacher says
Copyright be damned. Time for some strategic leaks of tape dupes straight to the other side of the Pond, where they might be received Properly…
Ed Bride says
Anyone interested in modernizing the copyright laws in the U.S. will be fighting big record companies as much as the estates of long-gone composers. But the biggest entity in the battle is probably Disney.
Rob D says
Holy cow..the sound quality is 150% better than I expected and that’s just straight off the tape, I assume.
I am all for protecting copyright but the present laws are way over the top in the USA in particular.
A friend of mine told me a story about a small blues based publication that wanted to put a small pic of an obscure artist in a story they did chronicling his career. The price for the pic was in the high 5 figures. So it ran without the picture and I wonder how that helps anyone. The mag doesn’t make money, I can assure you.
Just one little way that the law stifles the word getting out (even in a small way) about an artist and his contributions.