Why you’re not allowed to hear most old recordings




The U.S. Constitution empowers Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” In 1976, Congress set the limit at 75 years or the life of the author plus 50 years. In 1998, it extended both terms by 20 years. At least that’s true for most of what comes under the copyright law. For some reason, sound recordings do not fall under the federal copyright law. Instead, they fall under, and are crushed by the weight of a tangle of federal … Continue reading