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Sound Recordings: Copyright and Public Domain  

Sound recordings are a different animal when it come to copyright protection.
Last Updated: Mar 31, 2017 URL: Print Guide
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Copyright Info for Sound Recordings

The Battle Of Copyright 2011 by Christopher Dombres, copyright free

Definitive answers about using copyright-protected material are scarce. When talking about the use of copyright-protected sound recordings, someone is bound to take exception to whatever conclusion is drawn. Here are some official and sensible links to information about sound recordings and copyright.

Sound Recordings and Copyright

Vintage Edison phonograph, photograph by Jorge Royan This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Much of the information regarding copyright refers to print materials. Sound recordings are complex items. Copyright, permissions and royalties apply to the production of the physical item (the contributions of the persons responsible for capturing, processing and markting the sounds,) the recording (the sound produced by a performers,) and the piece recorded (a work by a composer, and possibly a lyricist and arranger.)

  • Any recordings published prior to Feb 15 1972 are not subject to federal copyright law, but most likely have copyright restrictions at the state level
  • Any recordings made from Feb 15 1972 to 1978 and published without notice (i.e, , year of publication, and name of copyright owner) are in the public domain.

    Sound Recordings [that may be] in the Public Domain

    • Audio Archive
      Audio Archive is a subset of the Internet Archive. It includes both music recordings as well as spoken word recordings: Audio Books & Poetry, Community Audio, Computers & Technology, Grateful Dead, Live Music Archive, Music & Arts, Netlabels, News & Public Affairs, Non-English Audio, Podcasts, Radio Programs and Spirituality & Religion. "The live music audio archive is an online public library of live recordings available for royalty-free, no-cost public downloads."
      Not everything is in the public domain. Each file has usage information.
    • The International Sound Effects Library
      [CD] PN2091 .S6 I57 1999
      From your friends at the Mudd. Twenty-eight compact discs accompanied by a track and index catalog. "Royalty free sound effects, production music and production element tracks for broadcast, post-production, podcasting, game development, film sound design and interactive media."

      Contains such useful sounds as "Chicken with something trying to kill it."

      Contents: Animals -- Business -- Civic -- Domestic -- Entertainment -- Gimmicks -- Humans -- Machinery -- Nature -- Ranch -- Sports -- Transportation -- War.

      Take a look at the complete contents.
    • Library of Congress, American Memory
      Twenty-five collections of spoken work and music sound recordings held by the Library of Congress. Each collection has a "Copyright and Other Restrictions" link explaining the terms under which the recordings may be used.
    • Recorded Music, Project Gutenberg
      Project Gutenberg is widely known as "the first producer of free ebooks," free because the copyright has expired in the United States. There is also a section for recorded music in the public domain.

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