CBC (English-language) and Radio-Canada (French) Music Library Closing, CD’s to be Digitised, Destroyed

It is sad news but I am not surprised. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is facing huge funding cuts from the government and increasing costs. The results include massive staff and production cuts. Rapidly developing technological developments are also driving the changes. The broadcaster, with its stations across the country has, over the decades, amassed a vast collection of recorded music and other artefacts. In 2012, and subsequent to a massive budget cut, the CBC began a policy of digitizing its collection to save space and storage costs, even as a move began to sell off buildings and move into smaller quarters. An executive with the project said, there will be no room in the new building for storage of the library.

Not only are CDs to be digitized and the destroyed, older records are to be destroyed without being converted to digital formats at all. The records to be destroyed include approximately 70,000 old 78rpm discs. Few of these were ever re-recorded on LP, and almost none of these exist on CD.

The executive also noted in a Radio-Canada story that they can’t give away the rest of the discs without first verifying the copyright situation, adding that doing that for the whole collection would be a far too expensive and time-consuming task. Another option of putting the collection in storage would also be too expensive.

You can read the full story in an article by Marc Montgomery in the Radio Canada International web site at: http://bit.ly/2ow20m2.


They can’t give the old 78rpm recordings to an archive or historic preservation organization because of copyright issues, so instead they will be totally destroyed? What good is that going to do for anyone at all, including the copyright holders whose work will be destroyed, rather than preserved? Can’t they ask the Parliament to pass a special law to permit this particular collection to be preserved by someone? This is how a nation loses its cultural heritage!


    How can giving the items away cause copyright complications? Unless they obtained them under a specific agreement which limited their use, how could anybody object? Very probably the copyright holders are long gone anyway – and any agreements destroyed years ago.
    Faced with a choice of destroying what might be the only copy of a work or having it preserved, I suspect that any copyright holder would opt for the latter in any case!
    It makes me wonder if the “copyright issue” is just another quasi official way of saying “we can’t be bothered”, just like the Data Protection Act here in the UK is often invoked when an organisation does not want to provide certain information.
    Does the CBC actually have a funding shortfall – the article comments suggest the exact opposite.


“How can giving the items away cause copyright complications? ”
Exactly – I’d be fairly certain that absolutely nothing under copyright law prevents me from giving away my stuff or selling it.
However, reading the slightly longer version on the link, I suspect that what is being referred to under the destruction / copyright point, refers to the CDs which are to be digitised first. Once they have been digitised, then two copies exist of the recording, not the one that was (we presume) paid for. The original CD, if still in copyright, then needs to be destroyed to bring the numbers of copies back down to the one that was paid for.


    I don’t know about Canadian law, but in the US we are allowed to make a copy for personal usage and archive the original for use if the copy is damaged or destroyed. As far as destroying those old 78’s and a lot of LP’s, I would consider it a crime to destroy what should be considered a historic artifact. Typical that it is easier to just destroy something than to look for another solution.


    It appears to be the old 78 and 33tpm recordings they plan to destroy because they lack the manpower to deal with the (probably bogus) copyright issue. Upon reading the articles, it seems to me the real problem is that they are in a rush to dispose of everything because they are in a hurry to vacate the space and they failed to waited until the last minute to start planning what to do with these (probably unindexed) materials, until now they’ve got this giant, self-created problem staring them in the face. Now they want to solve it by just chucking everything out the window without the slightest idea what’s in there, and pretend it never existed.


    Something similar happened in my home county. The county wanted to vacate a warehouse full of old records. Much of it in unimdexed and unlabeled boxes. They were just going to send it all to the dump until the County Clerk got into the act and refused to sign off on the disposal without knowing what was in the boxes. Well, it turned out what was in one of the boxes was the *original charter* which created the county back in the 1600s, Yes, nearly lost the original parchment document, with all the original signatures, which had been transcribed, but never digitized. It is now on permanent display in the public area of the County Clerk’s Offices.


Destroying the CD may be a copyright violation. If they only have the digitized version then they may no longer have proof of a legally obtained copy.


    Doug – that’s an interesting point. We had a similar situation when we had Microsoft Word installed on our new office computers many years ago. The actual software was cloned to each PC from a portable hard drive that the engineer brought with him. However, we also had to keep a boxed set of manuals; cd etc for each PC to prove that we had a valid licence. With twenty machines involved that was a fair amount of space taken up by unopened boxes which just gathered dust and got in our way.


It is the duty of CBC and/or the government to preserve these records for posterity’s sake. Where there is a will there is a way. They might even be able to solicite volunteers and train them to do the necessary to get whatever permissions are require to donate the records to someone, or organization, that cares. 1.8 million was found for the National Art Gallery in 1989 to purchase the Voice of Fire by Barnett Newman which was basically disliked by most who saw it as there was no value for money spent. Surely effort should be afforded to preserve these non replaceable records.


As a “recovering lawyer”, agreeing with most … it is CRITICAL that these records be preserved, and hopefully digitized. Lack of staff time or space is no reason for this decision. Copyrights likely expired, and if not any reproduction (record) legally possessed can be given or sold to another (or destroyed) – that is no violation. Why not advertise for a) a museum willing to take on the whole collection, write a grant or b) a private party willing to take on the project of digitizing it, legally and (probably) profitably? At least they would then be preserved. I daresay this has not been properly thought through. There are several available avenues to preservation.


CDs are already in digital format. Why do they need “digitising” again?


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