The access and use of sound recordings in cultural heritage institutions is highly limited by multiple barriers including format degradation, obsolescence, and the difficulty of identifying rights holders. Digitization is the recommended best practice to preserve degrading and obsolete materials. However, overlapping layers of rights and orphan works result in archives limiting access to digitized sound recordings to the reading room or, fearing legal repercussions, avoiding digitization altogether. We propose that a genre-based rights review process based on risk management and a fair use approach can be used to address legal limitations to access. We believe other cultural heritage institutions can apply the tools and methods developed in this project to increase access and use of their own unique historical recordings.

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