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Most papers on intellectual property issues don’t quote Karl Marx. But the German political philosopher was prominently mentioned in a keynote paper during a recent copyright seminar at the Library of Congress. The presenter quoting Marx was Professor Anthony Seeger, who teaches ethnomusicology at the University of California at Los Angeles. He is also the nephew of folk-singer Pete Seeger. Speaking on IP issues associated with audiovisual archives and collections, Prof. Seeger suggested that these issues “are too important to be left to lawyers.” The seminar, “Folk Heritage in Crisis,” was held in early December by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. Attendees included archive curators, academics and music-industry members. POSSIBLE CONFLICT Prof. Seeger was speaking of demands made on archives by cultural groups wishing to retrieve their own heritage materials, and reminded listeners that Marx once wrote, “[J]ust when [people] seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves … they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service.” Working out the appropriate IP protections and rights can be an area of “tremendous conflict” for researchers, collectors, individual artists and cultural communities, and for those who may wish to make commercial use of the material, said Prof. Seeger. Restrictive agreements were put into place decades ago, and it can be nearly impossible to unravel details in a timely fashion. National Public Radio’s Art Silverman uses material from tape archives for the “Lost and Found Sound” program he produces. But, he says, “I am not working on a long-range project. I want [a recording of] Harry S. Truman saying this now … and if I have to start with legal channels …” Conference attendees put together a list of policy recommendations but said it wasn’t ready for publication. Record producer Chris Strachwitz of El Cerrito, Calif.’s Arhoolie Records said that there was a call for a change in copyright law mandating compulsory licensing — at a statutory rate — of master recordings no longer on the market. John Simpson, lawyer for the Recording Industry Association of America was unavailable for comment.

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