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Fair Use in Music Preservation

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A new, free guide to preserving precious audio recordings and related archival materials includes crucial information on how to let the copyright policy of fair use help in that process.

Commissioned for and sponsored by the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress, the guide explains:
Our audio legacy is at serious risk because of media deterioration, technological obsolescence, and, often, lack of accessibility. This legacy is remarkable in its diversity, ranging from wax cylinders of extinct Native American languages to tapes of local radio broadcasts, naturalists’ and ethnographers’ field recordings, small independent record company releases, and much more. Saving this irreplaceable treasure demands the joint effort of libraries, archives, museums, local history repositories, corporations, and individuals. But for many institutions, the question is “Where to begin?” This guide addresses that question.

Copyright guidance was provided by Washington College of Law professor Brandon Butler, who wrote a chapter on what copyright allows and requires. As well, he and fellow prof. Peter Jaszi crafted a guide to fair use for the most common situations, all drawing up existing codes of best practices in related fields. The seven most common situations in which fair use is eligible are, Butler explains on his blog:

1.     Electronic access to rare/unique materials for offsite researchers/users

2.     Electronic access to collected materials for affiliated students and instructors in support of teaching

3.     Preservation/format-shifting

4.     Collecting online materials

5.     Data-mining/non-consumptive research

6.     Digital exhibits and exhibits for the public

7.     Transfer of copies to third parties in support of down- stream fair uses

This repurposing of previous codes, all of which are available on the CMSI website, shows the versatility of codes created by and for one creative community. They can not only reveal the logic of fair use in a highly specific situation but be used to reason about many related situations, in different fields.