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Third Man accused of copyright infringement over 1920s jazz collection

By | Published on Wednesday 5 February 2014

Third Man Records

Jack White’s Third Man Records has been accused of copyright infringement over its involvement in a box set release that featured a massive 800 recordings tracking the history of a Wisconsin jazz label called Paramount Records, which was hugely prolific during its two decades in business, before shutting down in 1935, a victim of The Great Depression.

Third Man and its partners in the Paramount box set, Revenant Records, reckon that the recordings featured in last year’s release are public domain, but an organisation called The George H Buck Jr Jazz Foundation begs to differ, claiming it owns the copyright in the tracks. Buck, who died last year, acquired the Paramount catalogue in 1970.

A spokesman for the Foundation, jazz musician Lars Edegran, told Offbeat magazine: “Third Man/Revenant Records claim that Paramount recordings are in the public domain. [But we] purchased the Paramount catalogue from John Steiner of Chicago in 1970 … Paramount recordings have been issued under licence agreements for a very long time”.

But speaking for Revenant Records, its co-founder, Dean Blackwood, says the Foundation has refused to provide evidence that the recordings are still subject to copyright restrictions, and that other labels have released tracks from the catalogue without the Foundation’s involvement in the past, albeit not so prolifically as with last year’s box set.

Says Blackwood: “We informed the Foundation that we would gladly come to an agreement with them if they could prove ownership. To date, they haven’t produced anything that proves ownership. And although there is a more than 50 year history of labels large and small reissuing this material without their involvement, we remain open to discussions with them if they can prove ownership of the recordings”.