Pre-WW2 Recordings are Available in EU Public Domain

Jon Noring on Project Gramophone: How to free older sound recordings from the vaults (Also here). Amazing quote:

The copyright terms for sound recordings in most developed countries are reasonable and rational. For example, in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most of the European Union countries, the term is 50 years after the year of fixation or of first public release. Thus, in these countries most (if not all) of the recordings from the pre-WW2 era are in the Public Domain, including those recorded in the United States. Other countries have slightly longer terms for sound recordings (e.g., 60 years in India, 70 in a few) in such countries many to most pre-WW2 U.S. recordings are also Public Domain.

Noring, who also works with Openbook, proposed a repository outside of the United States to store older recordings (In Project Gutenburg style). The project he proposed hasn’t had much activity, but has been doing some work on this.
Copyright Harmonization chart between EU and USA. It ain’t pretty.

Finally, here’s Noring on clearing pre-1972 recordings:

Why is this a factor in keeping the older recordings “locked away”? Simple. Because the royalty status of many of the recordings are not clearly documented (if documented at all), legally clearing the recordings for authorized reissue requires significant research, which costs money (and which has to be paid for from the small revenue the reissues will generate).