Public Knowledge Urges Copyright Office to Set Clear, Simple Rules for Legacy Sound Recordings

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Yesterday, Public Knowledge filed comments with the Copyright Office in its rulemaking, as part of the recently passed Music Modernization Act, to establish a “safe harbor” protocol for non-commercial use of pre-1972 sound recordings. Public Knowledge encourages the Office to make this safe harbor process accessible to average Americans, so that individuals and small institutions can make noncommercial uses of pre-1972 sound recordings which are not currently being made commercially available in the open market.

The following can be attributed to Meredith Rose, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“The safe harbor provisions of the Music Modernization Act represent an immense boon to historians, archivists, educators, and enthusiasts of all kinds -- if implemented correctly. Early sound recordings are not only records of our musical history, but also field notes, news broadcasts, spoken-word performances, and storytelling. These legacy recordings are a rich and invaluable part of our shared history. Unfortunately, many of them are in danger of being permanently lost, with no known rights holder and no way to acquire them in the modern market.

“The Music Modernization Act will allow anyone who wants to make a non-commercial use of these recordings to do so, provided they follow a short series of steps listed in the statute. The Copyright Office’s rulemaking will create a ‘checklist’ version of this safe harbor that, if followed, means a user has completed the ‘good faith, reasonable search’ required by the statute. We have urged the Copyright Office to make this checklist accessible and comprehensible to non-specialists, and to make it as simple as allowed by the statute.

“We look forward to working with the Copyright Office as they continue to work toward setting reasonable standards and procedures that will allow everyone -- from sophisticated archivists to average music fans -- to preserve and make available this critical part of our shared human history.”

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