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Jazz Orphans
April 26, 2011 12:12 PM   Subscribe


 
*sigh* Copyright really is strangling and/or drowning our shared cultural heritage, isn't it?

I wish we'd get it figured out. There's so much great stuff out there that's held back for fear of monetary damages claims. Truly heartbreaking.
posted by hippybear at 12:17 PM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


"It is a cultural treasure and should be made widely available.” The question, however, is whether that will happen anytime soon. And if it doesn’t, music fans might be justified in putting the blame on copyright law.

Might, really? What other culprit did you have in mind?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:18 PM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


The history of jazz is really written by early recordists like Savory. The entire LP business model evolved out of backroom acetate trading and home-pressed records from radio broadcasts and primitive location recordings (usually made with a single mic). Similar treasures have found their way out over time, although it still took decades upon decades. I hope for the best here, but I suspect the collection will remain available solely to academics for some time.
posted by mykescipark at 12:22 PM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good thing I don't really like jazz.
posted by item at 12:41 PM on April 26, 2011


Horace Rumpole: Might, really? What other culprit did you have in mind?

My typical go-to answer is "cats," but that seems to work better at home than with this quandary. And to be honest, no one really buys the "cats" defense at home, either.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:45 PM on April 26, 2011


Museums possess millions of archival documents, photographs, oral histories and reels of film that they cannot publish or digitize because copyright ownership is unclear.

This baffles me - why can't they digitize documents and recordings? Or in this case is that short-hand for "post on the internet in any form"?
posted by filthy light thief at 12:47 PM on April 26, 2011


Let me just say:

Fuck you, Sonny Bono. Fuck your stupid, awful music, fuck your ridiculous political career, and most of all fuck your obnoxious and fascist ideas about copyright law.
posted by koeselitz at 12:49 PM on April 26, 2011 [21 favorites]


filthy light thief: And to be honest, no one really buys the "cats" defense at home, either.

Least of all the cats themselves.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:51 PM on April 26, 2011


Somebody needs to abscond with these LPs to a country that's not a signatory to the Berne Convention (say, Papua New Guinea), rip them, release them onto the Internet, and return the original media.
posted by adamrice at 12:53 PM on April 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is pretty mind blowing. I really hope this is made available to everyone, someday. At least it seems to be in the hands of those that can preserve it, maybe long enough so that we can get copyright sorted out. Gah, copyright is so broken right now.
posted by fartknocker at 12:53 PM on April 26, 2011


I first read about this in the New York Times last fall and was afraid that exactly this would happen. All the artists jammed with whoever they wanted to or wanted to share the bill with, but the agents and labels have a totally different perspective on who gets the rights to control what.

Since you can't have, say, Capitol only issuing the recording of the saxophone soloist who was under their contract and Blue Note handling the rhythm section, all the business people have to be in contractual agreement over who gets to sell what. And they'd just as soon bury the recordings than watch somebody else make money that they think they deserve.
posted by ardgedee at 12:55 PM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


What was that stuff about "limited terms" and then into the public domain again?
posted by mikelieman at 12:59 PM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm looking at you, Wikileaks.
posted by honest knave at 1:01 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although that actually, that wouldn't work. Wikileaks is a news org, so publishing copyrighted material probably wouldn't match their mission.
posted by honest knave at 1:02 PM on April 26, 2011


Since you can't have, say, Capitol only issuing the recording of the saxophone soloist who was under their contract and Blue Note handling the rhythm section, all the business people have to be in contractual agreement over who gets to sell what. And they'd just as soon bury the recordings than watch somebody else make money that they think they deserve.

It does seem by this point (over 70 years after the last of these recordings were made) that the (in my hippie brain) moral and correct thing to do would be to release the recordings into the wild with no money involved or expected. These are basically historical cultural documents by now, and possibly a national treasure. Hiding them because of the fear of legal claims driven by greed just rubs me the wrong way.
posted by hippybear at 1:10 PM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


How do you know what I can hear?

*glares drunkenly*
posted by mrgrimm at 1:19 PM on April 26, 2011


The moral and correct thing to do would be to release the recordings into the wild with no money involved or expected. These are historical, cultural documents and national treasures.

Yes, exactly.

Also, I loved seeing the master power switch unit under the audio engineer's monitor. Very old-school.
posted by fartknocker at 1:23 PM on April 26, 2011


from article: “The public has only limited access to these digitized versions, however. Eight short clips, lasting about 30 seconds each, can be heard on the museum’s website. To hear anything more, you have to make an appointment to visit the museum’s listening room.”

Seriously, how hard can it be to make such an appointment? Very hard, you say? Well, fine and good. Somebody can apparently get such an appointment. And for $200 now you can buy a book-sized computer capable of rapid (or real-time, at least, depending on the medium) ripping of audio to file. Do they make you walk through a metal detector at this Jazz Museum?

All I'm saying is: it's possible, people. And because it's possible, it must be done.

Pity I don't live in New York.
posted by koeselitz at 1:35 PM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


koeselitz - I think they might notice if you stroll in with a laptop and a record player. Ripping CDs is one thing, recording old vinyl is another. And not all grooves are the same
The modern Lp has grooves that are nominally 1 mil (1 thousandth of an inch) wide. [I say nominally because the specification refers to the measured width about half way down the walls of the V-shaped groove, typically the contact points for the stylus as it rides in the groove.] Electrical era 78 grooves are 3 mils wide. Earlier disks can have grooves even wider (4 to 5 mils), and one-off transcription disks can vary between 2 to 4 mils. Radio transcriptions will usually have 2 mil grooves if they are laterally cut, but many vertically cut transcription discs from the 1930s have 2.5 mil grooves.
RE: Sonny Bono's copyright ridiculousness -- I remember the life+70 for the work of a creator, but I forgot about anonymous/pseudoanonymous/unknown author/works-for-hire: 120 years from creation -- ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEARS. FOR COPYRIGHTS. FOR A CORPORATION.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:45 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


With all this copyright mess it's a wonder that the Internet Archive manages to get so much music on their site. They have over 11,000 Cylinder Recordngs and 78 RPM recording. You want some Coon-Sanders Big Band from the 1930's you got 'em for free. Or at least you can hear them.

Just let us hear this Savory collection, please.
posted by Rashomon at 1:48 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great jazz find. Hopefully it makes its way to the public. I have some confidence that Google will be able to grease the wheels of progress and get some needed changes in the law. If not I hope the museum considers lending the recordings to someone who can take the risk to put them up for the public to hear, perhaps a non-profit set up specifically for this purpose and which has few assets making it judgement proof in case of a large damage award.

By the way, this article does a great job of laying out some of the intricacies of copyright law, which is not so easy considering how complex things can get.
posted by caddis at 1:52 PM on April 26, 2011


Moments like these I feel like I'm being punished. ("You can NOT listen to this music. It doesn't BELONG to you!")

Paging Wikileaks...
posted by victors at 1:59 PM on April 26, 2011


Can I just interrupt the collective hand-wringing about the Evils of Copyright to point out that the director of the National Jazz Museum has expressed cautious optimism that these recordings can be commercially released:

Mr. Schoenberg said that the museum, a nonprofit organization, is in discussions with Mosaic Records, a label that specializes in jazz reissues, about releasing the Savory collection on CD. The copyright questions discussed in the article remain thorny, he acknowledged, but perhaps not insurmountable. “They think there’s a way around these issues,” he said, based on previous reissue projects, perhaps involving a blanket royalty payment to the American Federation of Musicians.
posted by verstegan at 2:10 PM on April 26, 2011


filthy light thief: “koeselitz - I think they might notice if you stroll in with a laptop and a record player. Ripping CDs is one thing, recording old vinyl is another. And not all grooves are the same...”

No, I'm well aware of that; heh, I'm a vinyl geek, and I used to work in a library.

The thing is: even so, it's not incredibly difficult to rip in real-time. You just get pretty good recording software and then plug in. The thing about listening rooms is that you kind of have to give the listener some access to the machinery; and as long as that access is granted, it's sort of difficult to prevent them from plugging a different cable in, etc.

But also, I want to say that it's almost certain that we're not talking about 78s or old records here. Seriously, if the Jazz Museum is letting listeners – even listeners with appointments – actually listen to the original discs themselves, they are idiots – and I see no indication that they are. In fact, it appears that the discs have, either en masse or at least in part, been transferred to digital media.

And that makes sense. Honestly, the general way an archivist would probably allow people to listen to these discs is via CD. And if that's so... well.
posted by koeselitz at 2:18 PM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have some confidence that Google will be able to grease the wheels of progress and get some needed changes in the law.

I do not.

The conversation is so dominated by the rights-holders right now, that any discussion of finding a way out of this thicket is so complex and difficult as to be impossible. There are no politicians willing to argue for exception rights or for moderation of copyright or patent law. There is no money on K Street for anything other than rights extension, and they've been at it for decades.

Change will come only with a crisis, when publishers move off-shore, when Bollywood becomes more important than Hollywood, when indie and "pirate" productions become bigger than current mainstream. The market hasn't failed badly enough yet. Major companies need to fail for that to happen.

Book publishing is close to the tipping point. Perhaps movies and maybe music are past safely, perhaps not.
posted by bonehead at 2:18 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Umm, in the NYT vid on YT showing the discs being played, is that really a coin weighing down the tone arm cartridge? I realize vinyl is old school, but that's pretty amateur and surely not good for the record...
posted by bonefish at 2:28 PM on April 26, 2011


The same video shows that he has a Grammy for recording engineering. If you need a weight to be about the size of a dime and weigh about 2 1/2 grams, a dime isn't a bad choice.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:43 PM on April 26, 2011


Umm, in the NYT vid on YT showing the discs being played, is that really a coin weighing down the tone arm cartridge? I realize vinyl is old school, but that's pretty amateur and surely not good for the record...

*laugh* Not at all. Putting a penny on the cartridge end of a poorly-balanced tone-arm is old-school and won't cause any damage as long as the stylus pressure doesn't get to the point where there's something other than the point dragging through the groove.

Chances are these records have conditions which make it difficult for light-touch tone arms to track, either because the grooves aren't deep enough or have scratches across them or the record is warped or whatever.

Thanks for the flashback to the late 70s. I'd nearly forgotten I ever did that!
posted by hippybear at 2:46 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Putting a penny on the cartridge end of a poorly-balanced tone-arm is old-school

That's my point. Grammy winning dude can't balance the tone arm? Just seems pretty weird to me.
posted by bonefish at 3:15 PM on April 26, 2011


Well, again... light touch tone arms are notorious for not tracking vinyl which has any flaws at all. And I'd suspect that machine-cut vinyl source recordings which haven't been stored well in the over-70-years of their existence probably aren't known for their perfect surfaces and grooves. Plus, see earlier comment about how these may not be standard 33rpm record grooves.

I'm sure the engineer did what his years of experience told him was the best thing for getting that tone arm to track on the record. But I'm not inside his brain, so I can't really tell you what he eliminated before putting the coin on the arm.
posted by hippybear at 3:32 PM on April 26, 2011


I do wonder why such a place wouldn't have a laser turntable, though... Seems like that would be the kind of equipment an archival museum would have for preserving unique recording such as these.
posted by hippybear at 3:34 PM on April 26, 2011


IANAL, so would someone be so kind as to explain the copyright implications of one point I considered while reading this. The issue of orphan works aside, I'm not sure I understand the underlying copyright. Let's say I have a recording that a long-lost uncle made of Charlie Christian jamming at Minton's in 1941. Does the copyright attach to any recording made by Christian as an artist signed to a particular label? Does the copyright attach to the recording as the collective effort of all the musicians on the bandstand? And is it the same reason why so many record companies pursued bootleg concert tapers?

To my mind, it's as if an author tried to claim copyright for unscripted remarks she'd made at a conference because she was "composing" on the spot.
posted by the sobsister at 3:45 PM on April 26, 2011


To my mind, it's as if an author tried to claim copyright for unscripted remarks she'd made at a conference because she was "composing" on the spot.

If it is recorded, then yes, it is copyrighted in her name.

For the rest, here's the government's take on basic copyright law.

I'm pretty strong on supporting copyright, but even to me a seventy year old orphan recording is pushing it.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:00 PM on April 26, 2011


RE: Sonny Bono's copyright ridiculousness -- I remember the life+70 for the work of a creator, but I forgot about anonymous/pseudoanonymous/unknown author/works-for-hire: 120 years from creation -- ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEARS. FOR COPYRIGHTS. FOR A CORPORATION.

No, not for a corporation. For anyone who might have a commercial interest in the work, whether that's a corporation, a family trust, or the artist's grandchildren. I have an intense dislike of copyright law, but it has nothing to do with whether a corporation is involved or not. Corporations tend to keep track of their assets; orphan works are, by definition, works whose owners are unknown and who have not seen fit to record the fact of their ownership anywhere. Probabilistically speaking, there's a much higher chance that the orphan work is not the property of a corporation.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:06 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing is: even so, it's not incredibly difficult to rip in real-time.

Yeah, I'm not sure I understand this, either. If you can hear it, you can record it. That's sort-of the whole Achilles-heel in the content-owner's fight against piracy. Once the sound is out in the air, once the light is transmitted from the screen… all bets are off.

It is not only the right, it is the responsibility of all thinking people and friends of civilization to commit mass piracy until it becomes commonplace and benign.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:12 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not even sure you can rip vinyl in any way OTHER than in real time.
posted by hippybear at 5:25 PM on April 26, 2011


You could play the record faster and slow down the recording digitally. It may not make a great recordong,

anigbrowl, thanks for the clarification. Still, 120 years? FFS. Even a 70 year extension past the artists death is long, covering two generations past the artist
posted by filthy light thief at 5:48 PM on April 26, 2011


hippybear: "*sigh* Copyright really is strangling and/or drowning our shared cultural heritage, isn't it?

I wish we'd get it figured out. There's so much great stuff out there that's held back for fear of monetary damages claims. Truly heartbreaking
"

We can figure it out. It's called destroying the corporate ownership of America.
posted by symbioid at 6:48 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


How good of a scanner (or even digital camera) would you need to pick up the grooves and then recreate that a la photoautographs?
posted by Evilspork at 7:34 PM on April 26, 2011


Well, here's a page where a guy claims to have used a scanner to read the audio off his vinyl.

But then this page says that there are details in the grooves which are smaller than the wavelengths of visible light and so it wouldn't work.

So... I have no idea.
posted by hippybear at 8:27 PM on April 26, 2011


That's my point. Grammy winning dude can't balance the tone arm? Just seems pretty weird to me.

Anybody interested in the fine points of transcribing from analog recordings (78s, LPs, even cylinders) would be well served by checking out the Manual of Analogue Audio Restoration Techniques, put together by the late Peter Copeland, former Conservation Manager at the British Library Sound Archive. I've been using it as a reference for a personal 78 rpm to digital project, and without the Manual's guidance I almost certainly would have botched the job several times over.

Chapter 4, titled "Grooves and Styli," goes into the multiple factors one must consider when choosing stylus, pickup and tracking force. Professionals might choose from several different combinations depending on the job, and even record multiple times with various combinations to sample the groove at different heights.

Anyway, the idea of using high downforce may seem odd to us fed the mantra "less tracking force is better" from an early age, but you need sufficient force to make sure poor tracking doesn't damage the record. Further, shellac discs are much less susceptible to damage from pressure, and sometimes getting the most faithful, least-noisy sample necessitates using more downforce than modern tonearms are designed to provide. Copeland discusses this in Section 4.15:
...But nowadays, little wear is caused by higher playing weights; most is caused when the grooves vibrate the stylus, not by the downward pressure. There can be several advantages in increasing the downward pressure for an archival transfer. The fundamental resonant frequency of the cantilever is increased (according to a one-sixth power law - Ref. 21), thereby improving the high frequency response. Clicks and pops are dulled, partly because the stylus can push more dirt aside, and partly because the cantilever is less free to resonate. But most important of all, the stylus is forced into the surface of the disc, thereby increasing the contact area and reducing the basic hiss. Obviously the operator must not risk causing irreparable damage to a disc; but if he is sufficiently familiar with his equipment, he will soon learn how far to go whilst staying within the elastic limits of the medium.

Shellac discs seem practically indestructible at any playing-weight with modern stereo pickup cartridges. Modern pickup arms are not designed for high pressures, but a suitably-sliced section of pencil-eraser placed on top of the head-shell increases the down-force with no risk of hangover. Pressures of six to ten grams often give improved results with such discs; special low-compliance styli should be used if they are available. With ultra-large styli, like those for Pathé hill-and-dale discs, it may even be necessary to jam bits of pencil-eraser between cantilever and cartridge to decrease the compliance further; twenty to thirty grams may be needed to minimise the basic hiss here, because the area of contact is so large.
Oh, and as for the question of real-time sampling, sometimes a record is too flawed (warped, broken) to track properly without throwing the needle out of the groove. Then you can copy at half speed to keep the system tracking properly, and work with the sample at double the original sampling frequency.
posted by Opposite George at 10:31 PM on April 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


hippybear: Hm. The back of my envelope says that (worst case: needle near the center of a 33⅓ record) the needle's moving about 27 cm/second, so a 20 kHz vibration would have a physical wavelength of about 13µm. That's small, but it's 'way bigger than the wavelength of visible light, so it should be optically readable. You'd need a 4000-dpi scanner to do it, though.

If you're scanning 78s and are willing to lose a bunch of treble then I think you could get something with a commercial scanner.
posted by hattifattener at 10:43 PM on April 26, 2011


Copyright is just about stopping Mickey Mouse porn.
posted by Damienmce at 12:29 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let me just say:

Fuck you, Sonny Bono. Fuck your stupid, awful music, fuck your ridiculous political career, and most of all fuck your obnoxious and fascist ideas about copyright law.


Extended that for you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:22 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mr. Schoenberg said that the museum, a nonprofit organization, is in discussions with Mosaic Records, a label that specializes in jazz reissues, about releasing the Savory collection on CD. The copyright questions discussed in the article remain thorny, he acknowledged, but perhaps not insurmountable. “They think there’s a way around these issues,” he said, based on previous reissue projects, perhaps involving a blanket royalty payment to the American Federation of Musicians.

So the corporations win again. We don't get to enjoy these records, but they both get to enjoy and profit from them.
posted by ymgve at 6:56 AM on April 27, 2011


This would be a good place for a public institution like the Smithsonian or LoC to step in. At least as a stopgap while we revise our laws.

"If an organization wishes to use a copyrighted work, but no copyright owner can be found, the organization has a choice. It can forgo using the work, or it can use the work without permission, gambling that no copyright owner will appear.

But if the organization loses that gamble, the costs can be high: treble damages for willful infringement and an injunction against any further use of the work."


This is ridiculous. The onus should be shared between the organization and the copyright holder.

"In its 2006 report, the Copyright Office urged Congress to enact legislation that would protect any entity that is unable to locate a copyright owner after conducting a “reasonably diligent search.” If the entity subsequently uses the work and is sued for infringement by the copyright owner, the entity would not be liable for statutory damages or willful infringement. Instead, it would have to pay only “reasonable compensation” —in other words, a reasonable license fee. Moreover, the entity would not pay anything if it uses the work for noncommercial purposes and expeditiously stops using the work after receiving notice from the copyright owner. The Copyright Office also called for limits on injunctive relief for copyright owners in orphan copyright cases."

Yes. Much more reasonable.

"Soon after the Copyright Office issued the orphan copyrights report, a bill incorporating its proposals was introduced in the House of Representatives; but it never made it out of the Judiciary Committee. In 2008, similar legislation was introduced in the House and Senate. The Senate unanimously passed the bill; but again, the measure never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee."

Surprise, surprise.

I want to go, since I live in Harlem (yay!), but the museum's only open while I'm at work out in LONG ISLAND (ugh). Maybe I can go during lunch if I can get a day to work from home.
posted by Eideteker at 7:04 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Copyright is just about stopping Mickey Mouse porn.

There are a whole bunch of creative types in this world who will take issue with that. Don't go lumping the struggling scriveners/pluckers/daubers with Disney Corp.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:28 PM on April 27, 2011


This is what I call a bummer.
posted by freakazoid at 1:41 PM on April 27, 2011


Damienmce: “Copyright is just about stopping Mickey Mouse porn.”

IndigoJones: “There are a whole bunch of creative types in this world who will take issue with that. Don't go lumping the struggling scriveners/pluckers/daubers with Disney Corp.”

As one of those struggling creative types, let me just say that I fully support said lumping, and that I have never met anybody who profited from a copyright claim who wasn't already a millionaire. It's a scam.
posted by koeselitz at 1:51 PM on April 27, 2011


"... But You Can’t Hear Them."

I've gotta do a fannish promo here. If it's Saturday night and you ain't got no body ...

... then from 6-midnight (West coast time) you are invited to give a listen to (streaming if you -must-, haha) kuow.org. Amanda is the kind of DJ who always knows her shit no matter what she's spinning. I was not deep into Swing, but she caught my ear by regularly spinning stuff from players that blew as deep as they wanted to blow. Timeless music creates its own fidelity. Sly.
posted by Twang at 6:15 PM on April 27, 2011


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