One symbol of how amazing the internet has become is that you can saunter on over to the Internet Archive and download the original, very first recording of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. (That’s part one, and part two is here.) It’s a digital conversion of the original 1924 acoustic recording — as in, a recording made by the pressure of the audio waves causing an engraving onto wax — and it’s simply awesome. For those who don’t speak the cryptic language of computer audio formats, the download you want is the “VBR ZIP”, which is a variable bit rate MP3 file that provides the best quality of all the files available from the Archive.

(And while the point of this post isn’t to lambaste the state of copyright in the US, it does serve to point out that we wouldn’t be able to listen to this amazing recording if the Congress of the mid-twentieth century treated copyright like our current one does. Since 1960, Congress has extended the length an artistic work remains under copyright eleven times, all at the behest of media and entertainment companies. Without some sort of change, it’s doubtful that our grandkids will be able to download recordings of the Gershwins of today without violating someone’s copyright, and that’s a true shame.)


Not to nitpick, but our grandkids won’t be “donloading” anything just like we don’t listen to music from wax cylinders on hand-cranked players.

• Posted by: [OpenID Commenter Profile] on Mar 25, 2007, 12:36 AM

It should also be noted that this recording was made by the Thomas Edison studios, so they could sell copies of it for profit. Gershwin composed the song for licensed public performance, for profit. Both of those scenarios depend on copyrights.

• Posted by: Charles [TypeKey Profile Page] on Mar 25, 2007, 1:21 AM

Fair point, Mike — they’ll be doing something like MetaSharing it into their CMS (Cerebral Memory Space™).

Charles, I don’t get your point.

• Posted by: Jason on Mar 25, 2007, 10:32 AM

My point is, your point is incorrect. You said that “we wouldn’t be able to listen to this amazing recording if the Congress of the mid-twentieth century treated copyright like our current one does.” No, we wouldn’t be able to listen to it for free.
People like to gripe about the copyright laws, but if it weren’t for copyrights, this music would never have been created or recorded in the first place.

• Posted by: Charles [TypeKey Profile Page] on Mar 25, 2007, 5:23 PM

No, Charles, you’re reading something into my words that was neither present nor intended. I have no problem with copyright at all. I just wish it’d be treated by today’s Congress the way that it was intended by those which wrote it into the law in the first place — as a mechanism that achieved the *dual* goals of encouraging artistic work *and* ensuring that such works becomes available freely to the public after a reasonable length of time in which they are the protected intellectual property of the artists. Instead of having a Congress which respects both sides of that equation — the content producer side and the content consumer/public side — we have one which couldn’t care one whit about the consumers/public and is beholden to the producers (many of which, like Disney, wouldn’t even have succeeded if it weren’t for taking advantage of and improving upon works in the public domain).

I also love that you claim that without copyright, none of the works would have been created in the first place. You might want to go peruse any of the Creative Commons repositories for music, or photography, or art, or writing — they’re all doing fine, and there’s quite a bit out there that has no dependency on copyright whatsoever. Hell, Cory Doctorow just inked a publishing deal for one of his books that was published under a CC license — showing that it’s possible to give rights to the commons *and* reserve them for yourself in a different medium.

• Posted by: Jason on Mar 25, 2007, 7:56 PM

I joined the two halves of the MP3, if you don’t want to mess with having two files. It’s available here.

• Posted by: Vidiot on Mar 28, 2007, 11:38 AM
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