Sounds of yesterday gone forever

1958, file photo, Duke Ellington

1958, file photo, Duke Ellington

One of the readers of this blog “Sinking777” commented on an earlier post and pointed out this digital dark age story on a recent study of sound recordings:

The first comprehensive study of the preservation of sound recordings in the U.S., released by the Library of Congress, also found many historical recordings already have been lost or can’t be accessed by the public. That includes most of radio’s first decade from 1925 to 1935.

Shows by musicians Duke Ellington and Bing Crosby, as well as the earliest sports broadcasts, are already gone. There was little financial incentive for such broadcasters as CBS to save early sound files, Brylawski said.

“Those audio cassettes are just time bombs,” Brylawski said. “They’re just not going to be playable.”

The study also calls for changes in copyright law to help preservation. As it stands now, Brylawski said, copyright restrictions would make most audio preservation initiatives illegal, the authors wrote.

[read complete story]

The last bit in the study is very good to see.  One of the dirtiest secrets of digital preservation is that it often technically illegal, and this will likely have to change if we are going to have anything approaching a representative record of our increasingly digital civilization.

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