I have just heard a BBC radio item about how wonderful it is that somebody pirate recorded, and kept, a bunch of Alistair Cook's broadcasts 'Letter from America' back in the day.
The radio program I heard was 'Broadcasting House' with Paddy O'Connell, Radio 4 (FM) Sunday 18 November 2012 (1). Apparently the BBC did not retain that many of their early broadcasts.
Alistair Cook's broadcasts have been a part of my life, my heritage, my culture. I am grateful to the person who infringed copyright restrictions.
Another part of my personal culture is the humour of Kenneth Horne and his colleagues. It is wonderful to be able to hear examples of this again now, in some cases similarly, only because an individual made their own recordings off-air, for which the BBC now thanks them (2).
These are not isolated cases, and I am horrified at how easily my culture, the source of many personal and treasured memories, would so easily have been lost not only to me, but also to the wider world, for ever.
In 'BBC RADIO BLOG Behind the scenes' (3) the BBC elevates copyright infringement by listeners to 'archive' status: 'The Listeners' Archive'. Says the blog: 'Do you remember all those warnings about home taping? Did you ignore them and furtively record some of your favourite radio shows anyway?'
'Well the good news is you got away with it!'
And from the same blog the BBC is 'declaring a radio amnesty'. I take it from the context that this is a limited, somewhat arbitrary, amnesty, and that other infringement is not included....
The institutional duplicity here is astounding.
The copyright industry is storming around, attempting to preserve its ageing business model when the technology of the internet provides one gigantic copying machine (4). In its desperate convulsions, the industry inflicts massive collateral damage by its restrictions on personal freedom and cultural history.
As the BBC celebrates its birthday of 90 years, will we hear a population of listeners singing 'Happy Birthday to you?' Rather unlikely because this is restricted by copyright, even though it is sung countless times daily at birthdays.
Copyright has a long history, it is worth a look (5), particularly in its modern context. Many informed opinions hold that it is no longer appropriate, even that it does damage. Repeated surveys indicate that high spending music customers are the very people who infringe most. Still, the restrictions persist, and get worse. I am minded of the saying 'The beatings will continue until morale improves'.
Richard O'Dwyer, a young British web developer, is currently in the process of appealing against an order of UK courts that he is to be extradited to USA to face copyright infringement allegations (6).
Material published on the internet, say in YouTube, is routinely pulled after only allegation. Justification is apparently not required, just the allegation (7).
Political moves are afoot. The copyright industry's pejorative use of the word 'Pirate' has been turned against it by the formation of the Pirate Party movement whose objectives for civil rights, include copyright reform (8). There is some way yet to go.
Meanwhile, anyone with hooky recordings hidden away might find it useful to become informed about the lengths the copyright industry goes to, to prolong its existence, before they decide what action to take.
And - to the BBC - Happy Birthday!
To others - join the Pirate Party!
5) http://falkvinge.net/2011/02/01/history-of-copyright-part-1-black-death [multi-part]