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Re: [ARSCLIST] Public's rights....was offlist archival question from ARSC list member
First off, thanks for your response. You bring many things to light
here, and hopefully your comments will foster some really good
The main thing that caught my eye, was the public's right idea. I think
that this is a key archival question, and a vague area that deems
destined to get more vague as more events become "owned" in some way by
In one example, the NFL, exclusively owns the one of the biggest
sporting events in the country. They have a fantastic archive, and they
"seem" very fair with their historical coverage. (Meaning they don't
omit showing games, where certain teams lost (or won).) But will any of
their stuff every be turned into "public" assets, or should they.
Inversely, say they are bought, management changes, or some other change
occurs, and they begin to mis-represent some aspect of the game, it's
players, etc.) They have the ability to edit the history they own, and
is there anything to stop them, since they paid for, and own ALL the
The second is the music industry (I'll stay vague to speak freely),
there's a bunch of material that hasn't been released, for MANY reasons.
Is it the Public's right to EVER hear this stuff.
Opinion A) NO - What gives anyone or everyone the right to be able to
hear every note that said artist recorded? Maybe they were bad takes,
maybe they were initmately personal songs... More so, what give the
public the right to attain, control, or force the release of creatively
controlled property. Understand, public domain releases "specific items"
under copyright, it doesn't give keys to a vault and unrestricted
Opinion B) YES - We the people need to maintain the right to have, get,
listen to, etc. any and all corporate "stuff" after said time period,
for the benefit of science, society, human nature, etc. Since there's no
immediate interest in releasing stuff obscure stuff from the 20's, 30's,
40's then we should be able to access it ourselves for our own uses.
If you expand the "corporate property" ideals here the public itself,
under option B anything over a certain age may be repurposed for use by
anyone who seems fit. That includes your pristinely restored Model T,
the house you just paid the mortgage off on after 30 years, and possible
that wife that managed to stay by your side all these years.
History, should be accessible, but what does that word mean. Does it
mean, I have to go to the vault/library/archive, sign a bunch of forms
in advance, and pay a small processing fee, to listen to it in-house, or
does it mean a 10 second google search should stream it to me in 5.1
though my home theater?
I think if we understand specifically what we are asking, often the
questions answer themselves.
I also think there is a greatly blurred understanding of commonly used
words like: archive, accessibility, public right, ect.
Director of Archives
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:ARSCLIST@xxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Karl Miller
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2007 7:37 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] offlist archival question from ARSC list member
"Andes, Donald" <Donald.Andes@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote: ****I'd be
interested to hear from those in other (maybe non-corporate)
institutions, about the philosophies in practice there. No need to get
detailed or give away guarded secrets, just an overview of what goes on
in your archive.
Having experience in a non-corporate archive and running a small
record label it seems to me that there is indeed a philosophical
difference between the two.
Speaking for myself, as a researcher, discographer and music lover, it
is difficult for me to see recordings only in terms of a "product." They
are, from my own perspective, often times, part of our cultural
heritage. As a result of that perspective, the fact that the economics
might limit access to that cultural history, can be seen as frustrating
In the US we are burdened with a copyright law that would seem to
favor business over preservation and accessibility. From my perspective,
the US laws inhibit reasonable access, preservation and even business
models which could allow for a cost effective means to address these
concerns. In some ways it can be problematic for an archive to devote
the expense of preservation for something to which it cannot provide
reasonable access to a researcher, a limitation imposed by the
copyrights. And, as with my record company, there are performances I
would love to issue (I have the rights at no charge) but cannot even
afford to pay the pressing and mechanicals...and I do all of the
restoration, mastering, layout, etc for no pay. I do need to look into a
site where I can sell downloads and avoid the pressing costs...
It has seemed to me that our notions of what constitutes our history
are increasingly predicated on that which we consume. If those who
create what we consume have ownership of, and can, by the virture of
ownership, deprive us of access to what we consumed, our history, it
would seem that, assuming we see the public good as being served by
access to our history, we face a potential for a conflict of interest.
Economics can, in a sense, control and rewrite our history and
selectively preserve only that which it deems appropriate to satisfy its
economic needs...all part of the basics of a free market society.
Of course, then one could argue, that in a sense, economics created
"history," so therefore economics might have the "right" to control that
history. But that is probably a more complex philosophical issue...
Taking it to an absurd extreme...say, for example, some company bought
the rights to the history of the second world war, assuming it was up
for sale and someone could prove ownership. So, if that company decided
not to make that information available, or let that information
self-destruct, we would be left with some major blanks in our history
books. We also face similar problems with governmental ownership of
information...let us not forget the "Nixon tapes."
I am rather curious as to how all of this will eventually play out.
But I doubt it will reach a critical mass in my own lifetime. For me,
there is a conflict of interests in this scenario. I believe that we
have had this conflict ever since we had the ability to own intellectual
property. It becomes more of a problem when we have a longer ownership
of intellectual property and when we have more information!
There are many related questions which concern me. For example, once a
recording (or any bit of our corporate owned history) becomes public
domain, should the former owner have the "right" to destroy the master
recording. From a corporate perspective, of course it has the right as
it might be taking up shelf space. Further, should a musician have the
right to destroy their old masters? I am reminded of some years ago when
I reformatted some old tapes of Janis Joplin, when her voice was as
clear as a bell. So, if she had known about those tapes, and then
thought, "that isn't me anymore, destroy those tapes," we might not have
that bit of history. Yet, is there not any notion of the "common good"
or a right to access of history? And what right does the individual and
or corporation have to rewrite or destroy history they own? Is it their
history or does it belong to the public as in the "public's right to
Further, who will be qualified to decide what should be maintained?
While these questions are already answered in part by the
"non-corporate" archives, their abilities to make these decisions and
maintain the currently available information are already pushed beyond
their abilities to deal with it. And as one considers the exponential
growth of information...well it seems to me that the system has already
For me, much of the time it seems like we have a case of
"irreconcilable differences." Perhaps, in time, and given enough cause,
government might choose to address these issues.
I am no student of the US constitution, but I do wonder what
provisions there might be regarding the "right to know."
Music from EMI
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