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The 50 Year Copyright Conundrum

Colin Harper, unpublished, July 2007

IN SEPTEMBER 1959, an inmate of Mississippi State Penitentiary named James Carter led his fellows in singing a work song, 'Po' Lazarus', while chopping wood. In the vicinity with his tape recorder to hand that day, making field recordings for a series of albums on the American south, was Alan Lomax. Forty-one years later that recording made its way onto the five-million selling soundtrack to the American-made film Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Two years after that, Mr Carter, by now aged 76, was tracked down and handed a royalty cheque for $20,000 - with the promise of much, much more to come. It was a heart-warming tale.

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