Thursday Aug 26, 2010
Lum and Abner - Two previously lost shows
Thursday Aug 26, 2010
Thursday Aug 26, 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.)
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.
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