rand’s esoteric otr

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Lum and Abner - Two previously lost shows

August 25th, 2010

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.)

transcription label

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.

transcription label

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.

  • Buster

    These shows were given out freely to radio stations to run at will 70 years ago, without artist remuneration. There is no coyright on them.

    Aug 26, 2010 at 9:11 am
  • jacks archive storage

    Aug 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm
  • Jim

    I understand your decision and I’m glad you are making an archive copy of these shows for a time when they can be made available. Its unfortunate when any Golden age radio programming can still come under enforced copyright restriction, but its good to know that more programming exists and won’t be lost.

    Take care

    Aug 27, 2010 at 2:12 pm
  • George Wagner

    These programs would almost certainly have been copyrighted to the TB Association and the March of Dimes rather than to Lum & Abner.

    And that’s only if the programs were copyrighted in the FIRST place. If not, they’ve been Public Domain from the start.

    Personally, I’d post ‘em.

    Aug 29, 2010 at 2:42 am
  • Dave White

    Randy, as an OTR fan, I’m disappointed about not being able to hear these shows. However, as one whose income derives from creating intellectual property (as a writer and web designer) I applaud your meticulous approach to protecting against infringement.

    [OTR fan mode ON] The onus has historically been on the rights owner to prove ownership if it is claimed. So, in my opinion (which is worth less than zero since I am emphatically NOT a legal expert) it would be Radio Spirits, not you, who would have to produce documentation. [OTR fan mode OFF]

    The OTR fan side of me says, “Aw, go on and do it” but the starving artist side says, “Good on you!”

    Aug 29, 2010 at 7:26 am
  • John Fox

    Randy - You are a such tool. Why don’t you just post them on another server anonymously such as mediafire and post the links here.

    Aug 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm
  • DontAskSam

    I agree with Mr. White, on both sides of the issue. Property rights should be scrupulously respected. To do so otherwise is plain and simple theft and should not be tolerated in the OTR community. However, it is sad that the issue of copyrighted material is such a murky subject. There seems to be a lack of clarity in discerning whether material is protected, and it is certainly disheartening when even just the threat of legal action (whether enforceable or not) is the basis for removing files. If clear proof of ownership exists, then so be it. But false claims intending to intimidate those whose intentions are merely to share something they love with folks who are not looking for financial gain … that is reprehensible, and should be protested vigorously.

    btw … Mr. Rand:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/16-TRANSCRIPTION-CHRISTMAS-PAYS-IGNORANT-/350389154644?pt=Music_on_Vinyl&hash=item5194d23354

    found this on eBay. you had posted a show from this series sometime ago, and I thought you might be interested. I visit your site every week, and always enjoy the discs. I applaud your efforts to bring these pieces of history to us. Three cheers!

    Aug 31, 2010 at 8:47 am
  • Bill Smith

    I stumbled across this & thought I’d add my 1 & 3/5th cents. Let me give you a scenario I went through with a posting I made that corralates with this situation. I’m a ventriloquist using a puppet I made myself. This puppet is the same KIND of puppet that the late great Senor Wences, the spanish ventriloquist from the Ed Sullivan show used. A wig with eyes, on top of my hand, & a doll’s body underneath. Now mind you, this puppet, other than being made the same WAY, looks NOTHING like Senor Wences’ puppet, sounds nothing like it, I use NONE of Wences’ material in my act, etc. I posted a clip on youtube, & got a cease & desist order from a lawyer, who represents a “lady” that CLAIMS to have the rights to Wences’ act, via HIM! I know Wences’ granddaughter, & she says this is BS!! ANYWAY, the point i’m making is, it sounds like you already basically recieved a cease & desist of sorts when they notified you previously, so, just fair warning, don’t press your luck unless you have the stomache & money to fight it. BUT, if they don’t have these shows, & you work with them to put them on cd or whatever, make DAMN sure you have a contract from them which will guarentee you being paid a fee for each sale, download, or whatever. Being a songwriter also, this is common practice. you may not own the rights to the material on the discs, but you DO own the discs, & since they want to give you an attitude, give them one right back!! Just make sure if you do buisness with them, that you have the contract read over by a proper entertainment lawyer, to make sure you don’t get shafted. Just my humble opinion. Good luck.

    Sep 1, 2010 at 6:47 pm
  • Howard Cusan

    If you can’t/won’t share these then why tell us about it. It’s just a big tease. You have it and we don’t are you going to give up your copy and erase any copies you have made. I’m sure there is a small circle of your close friends that probably have a copy. Don’t get me wrong I love your site,and wish the best for it,I’m just bummed out that I can’t enjoy this. My goodness its over 70 years old,if this goes on,can you imagine your whole collection of disks being confiscated because of foolish copyright laws,bottom line it’s all about greed and how much a person/company benefit from this and make a profit. I wish you would offer them through pm email,snail-mail,etc. I’m disabled and stay home most of the time,if it wasn’t for otr hobby I would most likely have relapsed from drugs years ago. Please do not be offended with this note,just see it from my shoes. Thanks Howie

    Sep 2, 2010 at 1:39 am
  • Gerry

    Lame post - if you have ‘em post ‘em - bragging about ‘em doesn’t make you look any less of a coward for bowing before a letter that doesn’t even exist.

    Sep 3, 2010 at 12:18 pm
  • Tom

    Hi, I really enjoy your blog. I find it to be a little touch of Christmas every week.

    Don’t let the negative posters here affect your decision. I laud your respect for the property rights of others. The one thing the Internet has bred is a generation of people who think nothing of trampling the rights of copyright holders.

    Keep up the great work.

    Sep 3, 2010 at 6:27 pm
  • George Wagner

    But, Tom, the question is whether semi-public productions of the type produced by the TB Association and the March of Dimes were copyrighted in the first place.

    Just because a production contains copyrighted characters does NOT make that production copyrighted!

    For just one example military training cartoons starring Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny belong to the TAXPAYERS who PAID for them. ‘

    Sep 5, 2010 at 1:39 am
  • Tom W

    I respect your decision to not post the shows. It helps that I’m not a fan of Lum and Abner :)

    I visit your site every week and enjoy your postings.

    Didja know that Lou Crosby was the father of actress Cathie Lee Crosby?

    Sep 5, 2010 at 5:20 pm
  • Mark

    I want you all to know, if I ever come across these shows and buy them I won’t hesitate to upload them :D

    Sep 5, 2010 at 6:59 pm
  • Tom

    Hi George,

    What you say may very well be correct, except using the government as an example that is (the government follows laws that are strictly unto themselves).

    The question is does the charities and/or Lum & Abner own the rights? The NFL is a big sponsor of United Way Charities. I guarantee you their attorney’s (NFL) would be all over you if you did anything with those promos used for fund drives.

    Sep 5, 2010 at 10:49 pm
  • George Wagner

    But WILL those attorneys be anywhere nearly so protective of those 2009 promos in 2080 AD? THAT’S what we’re talking about!

    Sep 9, 2010 at 11:39 pm
  • Jimbo

    Pfft on Radio Spirits. Who wants to pay for OTR when they can get it free? They don’t own the right to Lum and Abner’s work 75 years ago.

    Jan 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm
  • radioman

    radio spirits is run by a bunch of greedy morons.the average person will never want old radio shows at all. so why bother trying to be the pain in the ass they have always been. post them screw them all.the orignal owners of the shows are dead now they made these shows to be heard!they should be happy some ppl even want the shows at all. if i had something id post it screw em.

    Jan 26, 2011 at 11:54 pm