-- Last modified Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 at 08:48pm

No license is granted to use this record when sold at a less price. While shopping for 78 records I came across one of the Victor Talking Machine Co. discs. This particular record was just another recording of Ave Maria, a single-side printing which, according to this page, was manufactured before 1909.

What caught my attention was the disclaimer on the back. There has been plenty of criticism of the record companies, under the flag of the RIAA, using numerous tactics that border on criminal to maintain their grip on anyone who listens to music. Most prevalent is the ongoing attempts to sue online music traders ("pirates") and get as much money out of them as possible without actually letting the courts get involved.

Only recently have some of these lawsuits actually proceeded into the courts, and I think to date the record companies have yet to win any of them. Anyone not familiar with the recent history of events is invited the peruse through Recording Industry vs. The People.

But don't get me wrong, the laws against copyright violations are indeed on the books. This is probably the only situation in my lifetime where there's been a real reason to bring jury nullification back. While I'm sure my colleagues and friends would denounce their association with me if I were to walk out of a convenience store with a lifted pack of gum, not a single one of these people would hesitate to ask me to copy a song for them.

After all it was just pushed into their home via radio waves, and they have the right to record this song for their own personal use, so why can't they copy it from someone else? It appears that a significant portion of the population doesn't see anything wrong with copying music, and I have a feeling that we're just around the corner from a paradigm shift in the way copyrights are handled.

But enough of this, back to the particular Victor record.

The old Victor records had a label on the back of them stating the terms of usage. After all, you don't own the record you just paid for, you simply have a license to use it.

Now that's a Big Ten Inch.

The label defines a price for this particular record - one dollar. I saw some similar records for sixty cents, but I purchased a record labeled one dollar. Using an inflation calculator we see that this record would cost $21.65 in 2006 (assuming the record was punched in 1906, 1907, or 1909). That's $22 for a single song.

But I didn't pay $22 for this record; I didn't even pay $1! But that's fine, it's old, scratched, and certainly not worth used what it was worth new.

Here's where it gets interesting. According to this sticker on the back of the record, "No license is granted to use this record when sold at a less price." So I purchased this record, but I do not have a license to play it. "All rights revert to the undersigned in the event of any violation."

The label doesn't provide any information on what I'm supposed to do with an unlicensed copy of Ave Maria. I could contact the Victor Record Company, but they sold assets to RCA, which was acquired by General Electric, which was sold to BMG, which merged with Sony. So do I contact Sony and inform them I have an unlicensed copy of Ave Maria? I'm sure they'd tell me to delete the mp3 off of my hard drive.

However, admitting I have an unlicensed copy of a record will certainly put me at risk of a lawsuit. Then I'd have to find an "expert" to testify in court that the unlicensed track is indeed embdded into this molded piece of plastic, and not stored on a hard drive. They'd probably drag the case through court, scour my hard drive, then drop the lawsuit and sue the antique junk store that sold me the record. After all, they were distributing unlicensed copies of music, which is clearly in violation of the law. "Any sale or use of this record in violation of any of these conditions will be considered as an infringement of our United States patents (...) and any parties so selling or using this record, or any copy thereof, contrary to the terms of this license, will be treated as infringers of said patents, and will render themselves liable to suit.

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