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Library Copyright Alliance applauds new ACCESS to Recordings Act

The Library Copyright Alliance – consisting of the American Library Association, the Association
of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries – applauds today’s
introduction of the Accessibility for Curators, Creators, Educators, Scholars, and Society
Recordings Act (“ACCESS to Recordings Act”) by Senator Ron Wyden. The bill would provide full
federal copyright protection to sound recordings fixed prior to 1972, which currently receive
protection only under state copyright law.

By providing full federal copyright protection to pre-1972 sound recordings, the ACCESS to
Recordings Act is superior to the Compensating Legacy Artists for the Songs, Service, and
Important Contributions to Society Act (“CLASSICS”), which has been introduced in the Senate
as S. 2393 and part of S. 2823. The House recently passed CLASSICS as part of the Music
Modernization Act (H.R. 5447).

CLASSICS does not provide full federal copyright protection to pre-1972 sound recordings.
Instead, CLASSICS provides only a digital performance right to such sound recordings—in other
words, it would prevent only unauthorized streaming. The ACCESS to Recordings Act, in
contrast, would prevent unauthorized reproductions and performances in any format.

While the ACCESS to Recordings Act provides more protections to artists than CLASSICS, it also
provides more protections to libraries, archives and museums. The federal copyright standard
provided by the ACCESS to Recordings Act includes important exceptions that permit digital
preservation of pre-1972 sound recordings. These uniform exceptions would enable cultural
heritage institutions to engage in critical preservation activities without concern about violating
a multiplicity of different state law regimes. CLASSICS, conversely, leaves the state copyright
system in place for activities other than digital performances.

Moreover, by bringing pre-1972 sound recordings under the federal copyright umbrella, the
ACCESS to Recordings Act establishes a reasonable term of protection for these sound
recordings: 95 years from publication. CLASSICS, on the other hand, would protect these sound
recordings until 2067. This means that a 1927 sound recording would receive protection 140
years after publication. Thus, under CLASSICS, a library that wanted to commemorate the
centenary of Pearl Harbor Day would be able to place photographs from December 7, 1941, on
its website, but not sound recordings.

We encourage Congress to proceed with the ACCESS to Recordings Act rather than CLASSICS.

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Carrie Russell

Carrie Russell is the director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Washington Office. Her portfolio includes copyright, international copyright, accessibility, e-books, and other public policy issues. She has an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MA in media arts from the University of Arizona.

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