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The long-running legal showdown between record labels and the nonprofit Internet Archive over digitized vintage recordings continues to spark debate. IA recently filed a motion to dismiss the copyright infringement suit brought by Universal, Sony, and Concord, citing fair use and statute of limitations defenses. But the labels have fired back, arguing IA’s claims are nothing more than smokescreens for mass piracy.

At issue is IA’s “Great 78 Project,” which has scanned and made publicly available over 400,000 early recordings originally pressed to 78rpm discs. In its dismissal effort, IA leaned on typical defenses like the three-year limit to sue over past infringements. However, the labels shot those down, stating their 2020 cease-and-desist letter did not specify works, preventing IA from proving notice.

More controversially, IA asserted the crackles and pops inherent to aging record grooves transform copying into fair use for “preservation.” Not so, insist the music corporations – those artifacts don’t authentically recreate the original sound, but instead document format degradation over decades. For them, it’s a transparent dodge to justify widespread distribution without permission or payment.

In their biting response, the labels accuse IA of conjuring “litigation-friendly theories” to hide massive unauthorized dissemination under the guise of research. They see no legitimate fair use claim when IA broadcasts recordings industry-wide rather than preserving them meticulously as historical artifacts. A group devoted to expanding public access, IA feels it’s sharing heritage for education. But majors view that mission as subverted by profit-driven digitization on an industrial scale.

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