[JPL] Copyright Law and European Compilations of U.S. Jazz Recordings

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Wed Dec 7 21:30:23 EST 2011


Interesting question:
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Copyright Law and European Compilations of U.S. Jazz Recordings
Orin Kerr . December 7, 2011 3:48 pm

I recently noticed that some U.S.-based merchants, such as Amazon, are 
selling imported collections of U.S. jazz recordings from the 1950s and 
early 1960s at extremely cheap prices: Typically, sets of 8 different 
albums put on 4 CDs are being offered at $15 for the entire set. For 
example, there's "Hank Mobley: Eight Classic Albums," featuring 8 of 
Mobley's Blue Note albums, on sale for $15.72; or, if you prefer, 
"Cannonball Adderly: Eight Classic Albums," featuring 8 of Adderley's 
albums, for $14.14. This seems to be a new development. The compilations 
mostly were released in the last few months, from labels with names like 
"Real Gone Jazz" and "101 Distribution."

My question is, are these recordings lawful to purchase in the United 
States? I realize I'm old-fashioned in caring about complying with 
copyright law. To the hipsters, it seems, "buying music lawfully" is 
like wearing pleated pants. But my sense is that these recordings are 
not licensed by the copyright owners in the United States, where the 
works are still under copyright. Rather, my guess is that they are 
taking advantage of the fact that copyright in the EU has used a 50 year 
term, which is about to increase to 70 years. So recordings from the 
1950s through 1961 are now in the public domain in Europe, as I 
understand it, and Europeans can therefore copy CDs, package lots of 
public-domain recordings together, and then sell them at very low cost 
to those in the U.S. through sites like Amazon.

So my first question is, am I right that this is what is happening? And 
second, if I'm right, does U.S. law prohibit purchasing recordings made 
where the items are in the public domain, albeit purchased from where 
they are still copyrighted, and then playing them in the U.S. where they 
are still copyrighted? Copyright nerds, what say you?
http://volokh.com/2011/12/07/copyright-law-and-european-box-sets-of-jazz-recordings/

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Dr. Jazz
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