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Copyright Office Notice of Inquiry

By Barry Skidelsky

On October 29th the Copyright Office released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI), asking whether federal protection should be extended to sound recordings made prior to February 15, 1972 (when sound recordings were apparently first protected under federal law). The following link should take you to the NOI: http://www.copyright.gov/docs/sound/FRDocument-2010-4-pre1972-sr.pdf.

One of the many complicated issues raised by the NOI is how a change in the law could affect royalties paid by or otherwise impact webcasters, satellite radio and other digital music providers under the statutory license of Copyright Act section 114 (regarding digital transmissions of sound recordings) -- although many such providers have not excluded pre-1972 recordings from royalty payments based on any possible exception, as that possibility has not been widely publicized.

The comments filed in this proceeding will help inform the record that will be created in connection with the Copyright Office making a recommendation to Congress about any suggested changes in the law. Comments are due on December 20th, with replies 30 days later.

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