ARSC Journal: Special Issue and Pre-1923 CD Celebrating the new US Public Domain

Woody Guthrie put a now famous copyright notice on his works: “This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.” The inheritors of the recordings he made for Victor, Asch, and Stinton see it differently and due to a series of industry victories their copyrights to his compositions and recorded works from the 1940s did not expire at 28 years, but will remain in private hands for decades to come. Under current copyright law his composition “This Land is Your Land,” written in 1940, will remain under license until 2035, restricting who can perform it, and his 1944 recording of the song will enter the public domain on January 1st, 2045. That recordings now enter the public domain at all represents a victory. Until January 1st of this year all recordings, even those made in the 1880s, were assumed to be under copyright until proven otherwise. This made the study and dissemination of early sound recordings a scary process, especially for the cautious institutions like libraries with the greatest ability to share the material. Suddenly the floodgates are open—with a new flood coming every January 1st. As a jazz fan you no
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