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Copyright Issues Relevant to Digital Preservation and Dissemination of Unpublished Pre-1972 Sound Recordings by Libraries and Archives by June Besek

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Commissioned for and sponsored by the National Recording Preservation Board, Library of Congress (March 2009)

Access to the full study is provided by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR)

Summary: This report addresses the question of what libraries and archives are legally empowered to do to preserve and make accessible for research their holdings of unpublished pre-1972 recordings. Unpublished recordings are those created for private use, or even for broadcast, but that have not been distributed to the public. Examples include tapes of live musical performances or of interviews conducted as part of field research or news gathering. Such recordings may find their way into library and archive collections. Some may be the only record of a particular performance or event, and therefore may have considerable cultural and historical significance. The rights for use of unpublished recordings are distinct from those for use of commercial recordings, which are intended for reproduction and sale to the public. Using examples of specific types of unpublished recordings, the study (1) describes the different bodies of law that protect pre-1972 recordings, (2) explains the difficulty in defining the precise contours of the law, and (3) provides guidance for libraries evaluating their activities with respect to unpublished pre-1972 recordings.