Wednesday, April 27, 2011


William Savory made recordings of jazz greats that may have included Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Count Basie. But we probably won’t ever hear them because the copyright tangle is just too complicated.

“William Savory was a pioneering audio engineer who recorded jazz legends in the 1930s. During his lifetime, William Savory kept these recordings largely to himself. He refused to reveal how many recordings he had and what performances they contained. He let only a very few of his recordings be heard by a small number of acquaintances. Over time, the Savory collection became a tantalizing enigma to jazz connoisseurs who yearned for access to its treasures. The mystery ended last summer. Six years after Savory passed away, his collection was acquired by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. And jazz experts were stunned. The extent and quality of the Savory collection was beyond anything they had imagined. “I figured there was maybe 50 to 100 unreleased recordings,” says Loren Schoenberg, the museum’s executive director. “I expected to see one box. Instead, I saw dozens of boxes. The Savory collection comprised about a thousand discs of the greatest performers of all time. And all of this was unknown music. It was immediately clear this was a treasure trove.” It would be nice to make these recordings available, but it will probably never happen. “The potential copyright liability that could attach to redistribution of these recordings is so large—and, more importantly, so uncertain—that there may never be a public distribution of the recordings,” wrote David G. Post, a law professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, on the Volokh Conspiracy blog. “Tracking down all the parties who may have a copyright interest in these performances, and therefore an entitlement to royalty payments (or to enjoining their distribution), is a monumental—and quite possibly an impossible—task.” (Click here for the whole story)

Click here for Billie


Leftcoastcat said...

Perfect illustration of everything right with the world, the music, and everything wrong with the world, greedhead copyright insanity. I truly hope that someone has the epiphany "Well fuck it, just release the music for free, it's the cultural heritage of the human race", ... I'm waiting.

Diamond Jim said...

Or steal it.

Mike said...

From the cited article, music is irrelevant to the copyright dispute. It's photographers who have blocked resolution of orphan works.

Aleleeinn said...

I'm with both leftcoastcat and Diamond Jim.
Many years ago, I missed getting a literal shed full of the formal releases of these artists. The records from a friends grandmother went to the Salvation Army. The lady did hair in Phili and the blues and jazz artists were her regular customers. A cool woman, I got to talk with her a few times.
I got over that, but I don't want to think about this happening again. Its bullshit plain and simple.
Not releasing the material is a crime against our cultural humanity.

Stonehenge Radio Show said...

All it takes is for one person to leak these on the internet, and it's game over, copyright or not. Fingers crossed some brave individual at the museum will liberate these recordings so we can all enjoy them.