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If you’re a music collector, read this and be horrified at what the CBC is doing

Over the decades, the CBC has become one of the biggest repositories of recorded music in the known world. Its archives are filled with all manner of records, CDs and tapes going back decades. Some of these recordings are one-of-a-kind and insanely rare, especially the 78 RPM records. And now a bunch of them are going to be destroyed.

Not sold. Not given away. Not donated. Destroyed.

According to this story (via Bobby) from Radio Canada International

The main French-language production centre of Radio-Canada in Montreal has also been digitising its collection. However recently it was revealed that most of the collection of over 200,000 CDs will be destroyed when the process is completed in 2019, prior to the move to new quarters in 2020.

The collection consists of some 151,000 CDs, and 56,000 “doubles”. The huge headquarters building of the French broadcasting network has been sold and the remaining entity is to be moved to a new smaller rented building being built on the former property.

Why? This seems like a horrible loss, one deliberately engineered. A wanton, careless, WILLFUL lost of culture. But here’s where we run into the issue of copyright.

The executive also noted in a Radio-Canada story that they can’t give away the rest of the discs without first verifying the copyright situation, adding that doing that for the whole collection would be a far too expensive and time-consuming task. Another option of putting the collection in storage would also be too expensive.

The solution apparently is to destroy the CD’s, along with the disc covers and liner notes. Producers have said that liner notes can provide useful information for programmers and hosts, and that much of that will be lost without the hard copies.
Some people aware of the situation have said that as the broadcaster eliminates its “hard copy” libraries, many rare items are likely to be lost forever.

The Montreal library also houses about 200,000 vinyl LP records. Many of these are now quite rare. Even more rare are the approximately 70,000 old 78rpm discs. Few of these were ever re-recorded on LP, and almost none of these exist on CD.

Unbelievable. Sad. Frustrating. Anyone else angry?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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19 thoughts on “If you’re a music collector, read this and be horrified at what the CBC is doing

  • Where is the copyright issue here? I don’t understand why copyright would prevent these from being given away or donated. Any lawyers on the stream care to elaborate?

  • Here’s a novel idea… how’s about the CBC hosts an auction of several lots of the to-be-destroyed hardcopies, and then, I dunno, donate the money to a worthy/related/needy cause. Or use that money to fund: music scholarships; free recording time for cash-strapped artists; anything that makes sense other than destroying stuff??

    FFS. I want to believe that the brains behind these decisions once, ONCE, got into the recording and broadcasting industry because of their love for the medium, and that something, anything, will give them a cognitive readjustment on what they should do, not what the cheapest option is.

  • Oh, another one my sidekick just told me… crowdsource individuals willing to do the leg work on the copyright issues. Amateur historians and music buffs that would HAPPILY volunteer to help figure out what the status is on all this music.

  • Really? How expensive would it be to create a Historical Music Society entity and donate the copies to that society in perpetuity and all rights to hold those copies? In the long run, the entity would need some funds or grant money to ensure storage of such donation, but most likely not the amount that the CBC would require. It sounds like there is no appetite to do the due diligence nessary to save the musical library.

    • National Music Centre and Canadian Music Hall Of Fame in Calgary is almost exactly that. Not sure why it can’t be donated to them.

  • They can easily be gifted. Copyright wouldn’t be an issue. This is BS

  • Everything always comes down to money. The copyright holders won’t get their money? Can’t have that. Too costly to store or sort through to determine which items are culturally sensitive/valuable? Sorry, it’s just easier to destroy that way nobody is out any money.
    I’m sure in today’s day and age that the resources (namely time & money… but time IS money so really, just money) could be crowdfunded easily enough. The CBC would just have to oversee so that nothing is slipping through the cracks (or into pockets).
    Let’s use the tools at hand to make this happen folks! Force their hand via the powers of social media!

  • Someone needs to explain to me the travesty here. If a CD only has a lifespan of 200 years maximum, we then should acknowledge that this medium is not going to be around forever like vinyl. If the content is backed up (including the liner notes being scanned for prosperity), everything that could be done has been done.

    I have no legal knowledge of copyright laws, so I cannot build an opinion of why these CDs need to be destroyed, but i will refuse to be angry that these CDs are going to be destroyed before they rot on their own.

  • I’m curious if everything being destroyed had been digitized? Not optimal as originals should be better but at least it would still be around.

  • This sickening. I would invest in saving these archives.

  • If selling is a problem, why not donate to libraries or museums?

  • Library and Archives Canada _should_ be very interested in this trove of material.

  • @Alan Can you expand on the copyright issue here? If I buy a CD, am I really prevented by copyright laws from giving it to my brother or friend? If not, what’s different about this archive at CBC?

  • This kind of thing should mesh well with the CKUA archives, too, I would expect.

  • The Music Library at University of Toronto, the Sound and Moving Image Library at York University, the Marvin Duchow Library at McGill… One would think these entities should be able to take over the large collection without infringing on copyright laws

  • Who can I write to to protest and hopefully stop this stupidity?
    As someone suggested send the music to the National Music Centre and Canadian Music Hall Of Fame in Calgary.
    I’d even make a donation towards making it happen. The costs could be be Crowdsourced (although I’m certain the CBC could handle the cost).
    We just need someone to step up and organize it.
    Hope it happens.

  • The problem with CDs is they suck as a long-term storage medium (especially CD-Rs). The adhesive which bonds the layers of plastic together actually rots, and if air touches the aluminum inside the disk it will oxidize quickly. Keeping in mind that CDs are already digital, having the data backed up on multiple servers would go a long way to ensuring that the content survives.

    • I agree. CDs: no great loss as long as they have been archived at 16/44.1K resolution. Hopefully they don’t think MP3 is “transparent” to the source. Actually CDs are ‘analog’ in that what’s on the disc are not ‘bits’ but rather pits and land that represent bits. So it’s really a spinning analog disc…not nearly as good as a record. And vinyl records are actually more robust and will outlast CDs for the reasons you cite….

  • This is horrifying news indeed! I hope that the National Archives of Canada steps in to save this motherlode of Canadian musical history from being destroyed. I know that rare recordings by Canadians such as Diane Brooks (who sang on many CBC music programs, provided backup vocals for Anne Murray and was part of iconic Canadian bands like Dr. Music and Motherlode), as well as the “Canadian Singing Dentist,” Bob Rozeka, are among the numerous CBC for airplay only recordings that will be lost forever if this destruction happens. This MUST be stopped!


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