Is it legal to play old Mercury Radio Theater show recordings on a college internet radio station?

April 18th, 2012

Question by : Is it legal to play old Mercury Radio Theater show recordings on a college internet radio station?
I would like to start a weekly radio show on my college’s internet radio station with old recordings of the Mercury Theater shows. Does anyone know if that would violate copyright laws (or other applicable law relating to radio broadcast)?

Thanks for your help!

Best answer:

Answer by bcnu
Several issues to slice at: whether you need a copyright license for non-profit use in an educational institution, whether it would be a different answer if the “channel” were only accessible to students at the college, whether the original works are copyrighted, and (if so) when do they expire.

The US Copyright law grants a limited exemption for certain educational uses. Read 17 USC s. 110 to see if your proposed use falls under one of them. If not, you may be able to obtain an inexpensive license from the copyright owners (typically the producers and their successor owners).

The Mercury Theater recordings were originally recorded prior to 1973, so they are not covered by any federal copyright. However, state laws prohibit unauthorized publication of sound recordings, so could still find yourself sued for copyright infringement in, say, Massachusetts. They would have to prove, among other things, that you “copied” the recording “without consent” and for the purpose of “profit” from a public performance, or to “sell, rent or transport” any unauthorized copy.

Under many state copyright laws, the copyright NEVER expires. These laws will remain in effect until they are preempted by the federal copyright law in 2067, making all such works “public domain”, i.e., no longer covered by any copyright in the USA.

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Posted by admin

One Response

  1. Magpie says:

    Radio drama from the so called “Golden Age” are usually (not always) public domain, because it radio drama was not recognized as a copyrightable medium.

    If your station is paying licensing fees to ASCAP, then radio plays are generally treated like any other song or recording.

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