Third Man and Revenant Records' Massive Paramount Box Sets Off a Copyright Dispute

"The Rise & Fall of Paramount Artists, Volume One (1917-1932)," a box set of music, art, and ephemera from Paramount Records' early days and the first of the two-part release "Paramount Records Wonder-Cabinet," has become the focus of a copyright dispute between Jack White's Third Man and Revenant Records and the George H. Buck, Jr. (GHB) Jazz Foundation, Offbeat reports. 

GHB claims Third Man and Revenant Records never obtained a license to sell 800 of Volume One's tracks, including 1920s-era songs by Louis Armstrong and Ma Rainey, that Buck purchased in 1970. In an official statement, Dixieland jazz musician Lars Edegran wrote, “GHB Jazz Foundation, a non-profit organization that specializes in keeping jazz and other American musical forms available to the public by issuing LPs, CDs, books and videos, claims ownership of the rights to the Paramount (and its associated labels) sound recordings. GHB purchased the Paramount catalogue from John Steiner of Chicago in 1970."

Dean Blackwood, co-founder of Revenant Records, counters that proof of ownership was never provided. “We informed the foundation that we would gladly come to an agreement with them if they could prove ownership of the recordings,” Blackwood told Offbeat. “To date, they haven’t produced anything that proves ownership." 

Federal copyright protections exist for sound recordings made after 1972 under the Copyright Act of 1976, which includes an extension that until 2067, state law protects recordings made before 1972. Third Man and Revenant argue that the Paramount Recordings are in the public domain. 

At press time GHB had not responded to a request for a comment, but a representative from Third Man told they stand by Revenant Records' statement. The second volume of "Paramount Records Wonder-Cabinet" is due in November.