Vinyl Vault lights fuse on copyright time bomb — but is it armed?

From Boing Boing:

Amoeba Records’ new out-of-print music service, Vinyl Vaults, proves a deep knowledge of the industry it cherishes. But the much-loved music store’s archive of obscure classics is also a potential time bomb, ticking away inside a bizarre legal tangle that few in the business are inclined to unravel.

It sells tracks as MP3s for $0.78, in Apple Lossless (ALAC in MPEG4’s M4A file format) for $1.18, and WAV files for $1.58. There’s a slight discount for buying albums. Amoeba says in its FAQ that it tried to run down the rightsholders for these recordings. Where it can’t, however, it posts the music anyway, and said to Variety it holds fees for that music in escrow.

There’s a problem here. There’s no such provision in copyright law for such an exemption, and Amoeba could find itself in real trouble, no matter its goodwill and above-board behavior. This doesn’t mean that current copyright law is reasonable on this score; it is not. Rather, that it’s fairly clear that what Amoeba is doing isn’t permitted.

There’s no active copyright police trolling for violations: rightsholders would have to discover Amoeba’s work and decide to act, whether to claim escrow fees or file suit.

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