A big tip of the hat goes out to Harlan for his generous donation to the blog this week - hope you continue enjoying the shows!
You might notice that the schedule's gotten a little erratic in recent weeks. Besides work and family, I've been working on transferring a number of discs, both for private collectors and the Old Time Radio Researchers Group.
But, my own collection isn't being neglected. I'm getting a big group of discs containing some intriguing material from stations in Los Angeles and Ohio and some odd 30's syndication discs you might find interesting.
There'll be some curious material popping up on the blog in the new year, including a brief run from a 1930s soap that appears to be previously lost - we'll start that one up after "Monticello Party Line" finishes up in a couple of months.
If you've visited the blog in the past few days, you might have noticed that some or all of the files aren't working. Well, Podbean fixed that this morning, but it appears I can't upload new shows for the moment.
Some new programs as soon as things are worked out. Please stand by....
Update - Things seemed to be fixed, but I'm having to re-post everything from last week...
I'd like to bring your attention to some wonderful comments from blog listener James who recalls hearing "Suspense" on Armed Forces Radio and a bit about how the BBC created their own series that was similar to "Suspense".
If you haven't read it yet, I recommend checking out a recent report from the Library of Congress on how copyright and ownership issues are causing difficulties for libraries and archives in preserving audio recordings. (Boingboing and other blogs have featured posts about the report the past few days.) Of particular interest is the section on old time radio, where they outline issues with how original recordings are so widespread and dispersed among institutions and private collectors. They also outline the many copyright and intellectual property issues faced by institutions and collectors when dealing with the material.
You can download the entire pdf document (1 mb) here - the old time radio section starts on page 29. The report is free for download or $30 for a printed copy.
A special thanks goes out this week to Melanie A. for her generous donation to the blog - hope you're enjoying the shows!
It's been a busy few weeks in my "day job" with the start of school at Duke. I'm still running behind a bit on my old time radio work, but hope to have the blog back on schedule later this weekend.
I did find the time to transfer a new series for the blog - eighteen shows featuring Hollywood gossip from 1945, unheard since they originally aired. We'll probably start them when one of our current series finishes up.
I have in my collection the following two discs, which I won't be posting on the blog. However, I do want "Lum and Abner" fans to be aware of them.
The first disc is a special broadcast by Lum and Abner heard in 1939 for that year's Christmas Seals campaign. In the quarter hour show, Lum decides he's going to fight tuberculosis by selling Christmas Seals and tries explaining the whole thing to Abner. The announcer on the show is Lou Crosby. The disc is an original Radio Recorders one-sided vinyl transcription pressed by Columbia, matrix number RR-4421. (The back side has Columbia's standard patterned blank side from the period.)
The other was a special ten minute show recorded by Lum and Abner to promote the March of Dimes and was released the week of January 22, 1940. The format is similar, though this time Lum uses the Pine Ridge party line to let everyone know about the good work their dimes can do to fight polio. Lou Crosby is the announcer again and Sybil Chisum is identified as the organist. This disc is a maroon vinyl transcription distributed by C.P. MacGregor and pressed by Allied Recording, matrix number AM 01261-1A. It's recorded with an Orthacoustic curve.
Neither show is previously known or circulated to Lum and Abner collectors. In fact, there are only two "Lum and Abner" shows surviving from 1939, a big gap in their body of work from the period.
These discs came in a big batch of circa 1939 discs from one source - the others in the group included the "Monticello Party Line" transcriptions, along with several "Front Page Story" and "Jungle Jim" discs from the period, along with some curious frequency test discs and documents.
Some were pretty scuffed and all were covered with many years of dust, so they look like that might have been stuffed in some attic or storage area all at the same time.
I had scheduled these two transcriptions to go up in my posts in December and January. (Yes, I do work that far in advance sometimes on the blog.) With the Radio Spirits take-down notices to archive.org, I'll just have to keep the discs and transfers in my private collection.
Click below to read why I'm deciding not to post them.
They're a good example of the murky questions surrounding rights to otr material.
In this case, the shows were syndicated by two non-profits - the National Tuberculosis Association and the March of Dimes, which still exist. It's likely that they contracted either with Lum and Abner, their sponsor and/or the network to produce these special programs. The charities probably would have more interest in having them circulate now as promotion of their history and work.
Since the rights holder - Chester Lauck's estate - through their exclusive agent, Radio Spirits, have issued a take-down order to archive.org claiming ownership of their entire body of radio work, there's a broad precedent for interest in the rights to anything produced by Lum and Abner on radio.
Leaning towards caution, I'm keep them off the blog.
In a practical sense, posting might only result in a cease and desist letter. But, as a blogger of this type of material, I have an obligation to demonstrate, as a general practice, that I'm trying to play the rules and assess potential damage to the market of copyright owner's works by the shows I post just in case someone down the line decides to actually sue. Some of the research you see here is part of my process done with the blog from the very beginning, figuring out what I do and don't place on the blog and trying to balance harm to a potential rights holder versus discussion and sharing of rare and unusual programs for the otr community.
These shows are the type of thing that could be used as a special "extra" on a cd set of Lum and Abner shows and would be particular interest to fans. Lum and Abner shows have circulated for years and it's rare that something new turns up. Downloading here could potentially harm a commercial market for these particular shows or sales of a couple of sets that included them as extras.
Before the take-down notices last week, this would have been a good candidate for posting on the blog. Lum and Abner's copyright holders did assert rights to the series through syndicating it to radio stations long after the programs were originally on the air, but their different series have been at archive.org and several other sites for many years.
With these particular programs, it does beg the question of who the real copyright owner (or owners) might be. Is it Lum and Abner? The Red Cross or March of Dimes? The network? The sponsor? All or some of the above? Or is the underlying intellectual material actually public domain, with the script being registered for copyright at the time and term expiring before it was renewed?
The same questions might be asked about the different sponsors and networks the guys worked for during their long career on the air.
The radio networks generally had a model of providing airtime to sponsors, so most sponsored shows were owned by the ad agency and/or sponsor that produced them, with performers providing services to the networks on a "work for hire" basis. It wasn't until the television era that this model was upended, with networks and performers owning programs - the old model didn't make sense anymore because expensive tv shows ultimately had to have multiple sponsors to pay for them.
By sending out a non-specific take-down notice to archive.org, and not asserting rights to specific series that Lum and Abner worked on through the years, it gives the impression the rights holder would frown on posting and sharing of emphemira like this, along with series where they had clear, iron-clad and enforceable contracts with networks and sponsors.
The only way to answer our "Information Please" question to the panel and make this one available online would be to dig out the original contracts and subsequent legal documents from an archives or family collection somewhere and that could begin to straighten things out.
Or, as with many things legal, it might be even murkier than before.
If you need a Lum and Abner "fix" today, you can check out a program I posted a few months ago they produced for a governmental agency, which I think is fairly safe to post since there's a legal precedent for films and radio programs produced by the Feds to be in the realm of public domain. (However, I've talked with someone who disagrees and thinks Command Performance and similar programs should get pulled from archive.org, so the debate continues.)
DavidinBerkley asked in a comment on one of the posts recently how this would affect what I might post in the future. To be a good net citizen, I need to avoid posting anything that Radio Spirits or other rights holders might lay claim to or be exploiting commercially.
With Radio Spirits, that will be a bit difficult. There's the list of known take-downs given to archive.org, but they have thousands of shows in their collections that they exploit through web streaming, cd sales, broadcasting on syndicated radio programs and Sirius-XM satellite radio. And they license material to other commercial interests as well.
What agreements they might have, I can only conjecture, based on the programs I see them run on a regular basis in their streams or broadcasts and sell on cd. Their licensing agreements and rights they hold they say are proprietary information - they'll respond about the status of particular programs if asked.
My posts will be more limited in the future, based on what I see them commercially exploiting at any point in time. As a practical matter, with the range of series I post, I just can't run every single one by them.
And, with some of what I've been thinking about these "Lum and Abner" discs, how can I challenge their claim if I have to rummage in an archive to find an original contract or legal trail for a particular series? I just don't have the resources to do so.
A few years back, I read about a most unusual series and have been wanting to take a peek at it ever since.
"Action in the Afternoon" was broadcast live on CBS for about a year, from 1953 to 1954. Originating at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia, the program was a five day a week Western, staged on an outdoor set behind the tv station. Come rain or shine, the show was on the air.
Usually when we think about the "Golden Age" of live television, it's the big prestigious dramas, comedies and variety shows that we recall with misty-eyed fondness about the "good old days". "Action in the Afternoon" is a wonderful reminder about how experimental - and awkward - early tv could be.
If you want to see a rare episode of the show, go to http://www.tvswestern.com/tv.cfm - scroll down on the page a bit and you should see it listed as the first program in the list. Apologies for the annoying ad at the beginning of the video.
For something a bit more modern on that new-fangled tv set, you might check out a show on PBS called "History Detectives". Old time radio researcher Elizabeth McCloud was featured in a recent episode, which you can watch online, with a segment on a script that someone found for the 1932 radio series "Secret Agent Five" - it's an intriguing little story about the FBI's involvement in early radio as a tool to promote its image. The segment starts at 36:00. You even get to see and hear played a unique Victor Home Recording from one of the shows. You can also view a pdf of the script.