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Wednesday, January 30

Thoughts On Amoeba Records' New Orphan Vinyl Digitization Service

Amoeba Music Digitizes, Sells Rare and Out-of-Print Records on Revamped Website http://m.pitchfork.com/news/49359-amoeba-music-digitizes-sells-rare-and-out-of-print-records-on-revamped-website/

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It's the same thing Google does with scanned books. Theoretically, it's only a way to deal with orphan works where the rights are unclear or the rights holder is MIA. Royalties are put into an escrow account on good faith and held in case a rights holder makes a claim.

Of course, it can be left open for abuse.

A similar law in Italy used to be abused by bootleggers. Italy had (has?) an incredibly short copyright duration, so labels could release live recordings from the 60's and early 70's by Zep, Hendrix, etc., put the money in escrow to await a claim, and be completely legal...in Italy. Of course the reality was that to make a claim, you first had to know that your record had been released in Italy, and then (pre-Internet) had to track down the dudes releasing it on Mario's Records, or whatever. In addition, the rights were only good for Italy, but the labels knew damn well that assholes like my boss at Kaleidoscope would export the hell out of them, and assholes like me would help pay their rent with commissions on sales of CDs that sounded like they were recorded through the wall of a hotel a block away from the club using a microphone inside of a styrofoam coffee cup.

In Amoeba'a instance, I would assume good faith. They are not releasing "Electric Ladyland" or even "Slanted and Enchanted" here. We're talking about obscure, out of print titles that are available on used vinyl only. Their sales per title will likely be minimal, but the genius part of it is that they've found a niche with zero competition. And they're doing it in a very public way. I think the law is pretty grey on this matter. Will be interesting to watch and I wish any innovative indie well.

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