The Library of Congress has just turned on its new streaming audio service, which includes a large piece of the national archives totaling around 10,000 titles. The joint venture of Sony and the Library of Congress gives users access to many Sony-controlled recordings that have long been out of circulation.
At your fingertips are some recordings that have been lost for over a hundred years, including many that have been lost to restrictive copyright laws. For its part, Sony has made its entire pre-1925 catalogue available, featuring acoustic recordings originally released by Victor Machine Co., most of which haven't been in circulation for a long while.
Sony isn't stopping there, though: The next phase of the project will release the early -- and incredibly influential -- recordings made for Columbia Records.
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So what took so long?
Well, sound recordings weren't added to federal copyright law protection until 1972, so anything before that time has a complicated and next-to-impossible-to-piece-together ownership history. One part of the problem is finding the owners of the original recordings, as many of these releases were passed down to family members or bought up by companies who aren't aware of what they have. But even after an owner is found, the recordings are protected by state statutory and common laws, not national ones. Sound recordings do not fall under the same laws as film, photographs and books.
Thankfully, a proposal is currently making its way through Congress that will bring pre-1972 recordings under the post-1972 copyright laws, meaning most of them would end up being public domain, which would end up being a huge boon for fans of old-time music and those who are looking to restore or establish local works.
As of this writing, there are only a few songs about Colorado in the mix, but as time moves on, we're certain more will come about. If you happen to come across any Colorado artists while perusing the catalogue, be sure to let us know. We'd love to hear what our city was up to in the 1920s.