Thomas Edison, Intellectual Property and the Recording Industry

By George Ziemann 6/05/03

Chapter 5 -- Bringing the Past Into the Present

The interactive portion of the story is over. Oh sure, we can talk about it later and this will become part of the book, so keep sending your comments. But this is what I originally intended to write about. I just wanted to tell you how Edison's story took place, what happened to his rights and patents, and make sure everyone had a simple story about the way the industry started.

Everything else (Chapters 2-4) just happened during the course of getting from Chapter One to this one.


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Now that everyone knows the history of the North American Phonograph Company (NAPC), it's time to talk about Shawn Borri and what he is doing. For one thing, he now owns the NAPC.

As Shawn tells the story, "I acquired North American in 1998, on a lark that nobody has used the name since 1894. At first, it was New North American Phonograph Co. and in 2000 changed to THE NORTH AMERICAN PHONOGRAPH CO. and I am still slowly getting it back on its feet.

"Today our main purpose is the Education of the general populace about the history of musical recording, and the artists who made them, and the compositions, and manufacture of machines and methods of recording, reproducing, and perpetuation of articulate speech and other sounds."

Shawn used a few words in those simple statements that no one usually puts together any more. Don't know why. They're the basis of everything I've been talking about for months -- education, history, the artists, composition, methods of recording. My original intent was to talk about what Shawn is doing now, and the things he has planned.

For instance, directly from the front page of their web site -- "The North American Phonograph Company takes great pride in announcing they will be recording one of the world's premier rock and roll bands, The Dead, using 19th century Edison acoustic recording equipment (no electricity or microphones) and wax cylinders on June 29, 2003 at Vernon Down's Raceway in Vernon, New York. As always, please check out our other pages, to learn more."

So do that. Right now. I've only linked it about 30 times now. If you haven't already and you've read this far already, it is worth the trip to see what Shawn is doing, where he is going with it. I'm not even going to attempt to do that on one page. I'll wait.

Because something else has come up. It's all very timely.


You see, as soon as I mentioned Shawn's name, I was warned that he was just a "misguided hobbyist" that was making something out of nothing. Several people offered their opinions on what Shawn thinks, where his previous quotes were and their opinion about what he had to say. I wasn't going to even talk about that. Never went back and read Shawn's quotes.

Shawn himself had also indicated that he did have a personal agenda, having only noted that the RIAA wouldn't respond to him, either. But we never really discussed it, what it was or why I would even care. He just pointed me at the beginning of the industry.

I even specifically asked him if there was a link between the original NAPC and "Steamboat Willy," which may have had a copyright implication. Shawn's response: "The Disney court case basically backed up the copyrights of music, film, and other copyrights. I am not in any way related with them."

So I never even figured out what the "outrageous claim" that everyone warned me about was. I do know this, though. Shawn has a couple of common sense questions that he is asking. No one wants to answer them.

Gee, that's just where I was at six months ago. Misguided. Exaggerating. Making something out of nothing. I started out asking the simple question of why I couldn't sell my own CD on eBay because I used a CD-R. Then I started trying to figure out who was responsible. Lots of questions. From the day I wrote to the RIAA offering them actual pirates about six months ago, to the taunting challenges I delivered to Hilary Rosen's e-mail last month, they have never once responded to anything at all, no matter how it was asked.

Shawn has the same problem. It makes me think that, whatever it is, he's on to something.

Shawn's simple question, which I still do not know, seems to start like this --

If Disney's rights go back to 1928, then ...?


"There ain't no rules around here. We're trying to accomplish something." -- Thomas Edison.


Chapter 1-- The Dawn of Recorded Music and the First Pirates
Chapter 2 -- Music, Movies and Monopoly
Chapter 3 -- The Industry Evolves
Chapter 4 -- Copyright and the Grand Illusion
Chapter 5 -- Bringing the Past Into the Present


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Other MP3 stories:
Copy Protection and the Reasonable Man
Review: Neuros MP3 Digital Audio Computer

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