- May 25, 2022 at 5:27 pm #119698
Artisan Radio plays only public domain (in Canada and the U.S.) recordings.
While it might seem that that might be extremely limiting, it really isn’t. There are many sources available and I thought I’d share some with the Forum over the next little while.
The public domain changed rather drastically in the U.S. as of January 1, 2022. On that date, all music recordings published prior to 1922 (i.e., more than 100 years ago) fell into the public domain. All music for that period (prior to 1922) is also in the public domain.
There are many sources for both 78s and cylinder recordings that have been digitized. Archive.org is one (I use the search terms 78 and then the year I’m interested in). I find the material there to be uneven in quality – some raw, some processed. Some quite good, some quite bad.
Then there’s SLUB. Don’t ask me what it stands for, but it’s over in Germany, and associated with the University of Dresden (I believe). It has an immense library of European digitized recordings, mostly vocal, and the quality is generally quite good. A lot predates 1922.
The classical and opera recordings found on both sites are very enjoyable, and sound quality aside, compare favorably with modern ones. I’m not a big fan of the popular music of the day, other than the jazz roots stuff, which is interesting.
Of course, there’s a lot more you can do with Part 15 broadcasting than just play music. Next time…May 26, 2022 at 9:07 am #119699
OTR (Old Time Radio) is another source of public domain programming.
Now, opinions on the public domain-ness (sic) of OTR are like a**h***s. Everyone has one.
The facts are that the courts, as usual, are the last resort when it comes to deciding this, and not very many cases have made it that far. When they have, the courts generally decide that the material is in the public domain. For example, The Shadow radio shows were determined to be in the public domain, even though the Shadow character and magazines are still copyrighted (and will be until the late 2020’s. the vast majority of the Lum & Abner shows have also been determined to be in the public domain (except the later ones).
Unfortunately, copyright law in the U.S. is as clear as mud. OTR shows fall under the 1909 copyright act, and the later Sonny Bono (Mickey Mouse) revision of 1978.
Here is an except from a Copyright Office circular:
“Under the 1909 copyright law, works copyrighted in the United States before
January 1, 1978, were subject to a renewal system in which the term of copyright was divided into two consecutive terms. Renewal registration, within strict time limits, was required as a condition of securing the second term and extending the copyright to its maximum length.
On January 1, 1978, the current copyright law (title 17 of the United States Code) came into effect in the United States. This law retained the renewal system for works that were copyrighted before 1978 and were still in their first terms on January 1, 1978. For these works the statute provides for a first term of copyright protection lasting for 28 years, with the possibility for a second term of 47 years. The 1992 amending legislation automatically secures this second term for works copyrighted between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1977.”
What does this mean for OTR? Well, the vast majority was produced prior to 1950, and to be in copyright by 1978, would have had to renew that copyright at the end of the initial 28 year period. There is no record of any renewals.
There is a subset of OTR produced after 1950 that would have been in their first copyright term when the 1978 revision came into effect. These shows would have had to register for the extended renewal during the period 1978/1979. Again, none did. The records show that only a few foreign radio broadcasts applied for extended copyright during this period. And, in fact, there are again no records of any renewals for U.S. broadcasts.
Copyright renewal was finally made optional for works copyrighted between 1964 and 1977 – the time for OTR was done by then.
While not tested in court, no less of an authority as the Library of Congress has stated to various OTR groups (including the OTR Radio Researchers) that most OTR is in the public domain today, as the copyright (if it ever was initially registered) has expired, or was not renewed and has expired.
The argument has previously been made here that some OTR shows contain popular music, which would be copyrighted. While that is true, it doesn’t mean that the OTR show in its entirety is automatically copyrighted because of that. I reference The Shadow show, which contains copyrighted elements taken in isolation, or going to other media, the Superman cartoon shorts of the 1940s.
But I’m not going to argue here about music. The simplest solution is to not broadcast OTR shows that contain popular music, i.e., any of the variety shows such as Kraft Music Hall. Keep to the dramas or comedies, of which there are many.
As for sources, the best by far is the Old Time Radio Researcher’s website – they store the media on Archive.org. Many of the shows they’ve catalogued have been rerecorded from the original transcaription discs in High Quality (for OTR) – 64 or 128kbps mp3. Historically, OTR was recorded in 32kpbs or lower, when disk space was not as plentiful as it is today, and you’ll still find some with that quality.
Next … audiobooks.May 26, 2022 at 12:26 pm #119700
Continued – Part 3
When you think about it, literature of all types, fiction and non fiction, makes perfect sense as broadcast programming. Certainly, the folks in the Golden Age of Radio recognized that, creating shorter versions of numerous stories, from Lux Radio Theater to Sam Spade.
There is one inherent problem. Many books are quite lengthy in audio format, requiring no small amount of time to listen to them. One advantage over television and other video entertainment, however, is that you can do other things while listening. Video forces you to remain comatose-like in your seat staring at a screen.
Before I go into a potential solution for the time issue, I want to point out that there are numerous resources for public domain books, and one main resource for public domain audio books.
Project Gutenberg in the U.S. makes over 60,000 books available in various e-book formats. They research each and every book to ensure that it is indeed in the public domain in Canada. There are various offshoots of Gutenberg in other countries, such as Australia and Canada, that focus on public domain books by authors in those countries.
If you are in a country other than the U.S., you have to ensure that a book you download from Project Gutenberg is in the public domain where you live.
So, one potential source of book radio programming is to create your own, using Project Gutenberg as a reliable library. If you’ve ever tried this, however, you’ll soon find out that it’s much easier said than done, and more difficult than it sounds.
Luckily for us, Librivox.org exists. They take public domain books from Gutenberg, and create public domain audio books. There are over 20,000 available, and more coming as I type this.
The readers are volunteers, so the quality varies widely. Most are adequate, many are quite good and some are exceptional, as good or even better than professionals. They may even be professionals, for all I know. I strongly recommend the Sherlock Holmes readings of David Clarke as an example (he’s done every book featuring the detective).
The variety of audio books available is staggering. Mystery, adventure, science fiction, fantasy, humor, romance … and that’s only the fiction. You’ll also find politics, philosophy, literary criticism, essays on virtually every subject … pretty amazing.
The issue here is that you have to have a fairly good knowledge of books and authors to find the really good stuff. Considering that many people don’t even read books these days, that is a real challenge. But think of what you can learn!
Back to my original question. Who is going to listen to books? I agree that there’s an attention problem, partly due to today’s society, and just partly due to the overall length of some of these tomes. I believe the solution, at least to my way of thinking right now, is to concentrate on short stories for the times in which most people are active, and leave the longer material for rest periods. In many ways, it will be lengthier OTR-like stories (but written by generally better authors).
I’m going to call what Artisan Radio will be doing “Books Over The Air”, and shortly it will be a separate stream and broadcast. The jury’s still out on the subject matter, but at the very least it will cover fiction mostly – mystery/adventure, horror and science fiction/fantasy.
The concept is evolving every day, so is subject to change without notice.
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