U.S. unveils plan to preserve historical recordings

Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:45pm EST

(Reuters) - The U.S. Library of Congress on Wednesday unveiled a plan to preserve historically significant and imperiled sound recordings and make important ones more accessible to the public.

The plan calls for the on-demand streaming of out-of-print recordings, the construction of a secure long-term storage facility and a directory of recorded-sound collections.

Recordings with high historical value, including music, speeches and interviews, have gone missing, been destroyed or decayed over time, the Library of Congress said.

"Our collective energy in creating and consuming sound recordings has not been matched by an equal level of interest in preserving them for posterity," Librarian of Congress James Billington said in a statement.

The statement did not say how much the plan would cost. Congress appropriates between $1 million and $1.5 million annually for the library's film and sound recording preservation projects.

The Library of Congress cited several historically important recordings that have gone missing or were destroyed because it lacked a preservation plan.

A World War Two wire recording of the Enola Gay crew members as the plane dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, is missing, as are key recordings by American composer George Gershwin.

Recordings by singers and silver screen actors Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra are also lost, while some personal collections by recording artists were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy last year.

It is estimated that more than half of cylinder records, the most-used format in the first two decades of the U.S. recording industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, no longer survive, the library said.

A lack of storage capacity, disparate copyright laws pertaining to historical recordings and other problems have stood in the way of preserving important sound recordings, according to the library.

Part of the plan would to be to apply U.S. copyright law to recordings created before 1972, which would let the library legally stream recordings online for educational purposes.

(Reporting By Noreen O'Donnell in New York; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Mohammad Zargham)

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