National Jukebox: public domain music archive from the Library of Congress

From the Department-of-Things-That-Will-Soon-Be-Impossible, Alan writes, "A selection of historical recordings, from old Victrolas to 78 RPM records, is now available free from the National Jukebox. Put online by the Library of Congress this trove of public domain material wouldn't be possible if copyright landgrabbers had gotten everything they wanted. And with less and less material entering the public domain the jukebox's contents will probably stay static for at least our lifetimes."

National Jukebox (Thanks, Alan!)


  1. Two words: Streaming Only. Even though the material is all PD, you can’t download it and actually do anything with it. In the words of Rick Prelinger, “Streaming is for sissies.”

    Relevant text: “Recordings in the Jukebox were issued on record labels now owned by Sony Music Entertainment, which has granted the Library of Congress a gratis license to stream acoustical recordings.”

    In other words, even though the material is PD, the copyright Mafia is still maintaining control over “their” intellectual property.

  2. Public domain?

    “This recording is protected by state copyright laws in the United States. The Library of Congress has obtained a license from rights holders to offer it as streamed audio only. Downloading is not permitted. The authorization of rights holders of the recording is required in order to obtain a copy of the recording. Contact for more information.

    “Source of original recording: Recorded Sound Section, Library of Congress. Inclusion of the recording in the National Jukebox, courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment.”

    1. Yeah — can someone explain why this 1910 recording — — says the following under rights and access?

      “This recording is protected by state copyright laws in the United States.” and “Inclusion of the recording in the National Jukebox, courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment.”

      I thought 1923 was the magic date.

  3. It’s also worth noting that, because sound recordings were not protected under Federal copyright law until 1972, these 78’s fall under a complex array of arcane state laws. It should be safe to freely copy and distribute all of these works starting on February 15, 2067… (17 usc section 301 c : Sadly, the magic 1923 date does not work for early sound recordings.

  4. Oh, thank you, Sony, for being soooo magnanimous for letting us *stream* recordings from a hundred fuckin years ago, whose composers and performers are all long dead and buried. And send a thank you to your accountants, who worked hard crunching the numbers and concluded that there’s no money to be milked from these nearly lost artifacts. Thank you sir, may I have another!

  5. disclaimer: I work for the IT department at the LoC, but I wasn’t involved in the Jukebox project.

    We had a lot of fun checking out the stuff here before and after it went into production. As expected, there’s a lot of racist stuff here, mostly against black people.

    BUT, there are also some wonderful gems. Like this one: No news, or What killed the dog?

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