Portland man digitizing rare records

Cliff Bolling has been on a five-year quest to digitize and make available his entire record collection, turning old 78 RPM records into digital age Mp3s complete with all the pops and hisses.

The 57-year-old Portland, Ore. native has uploaded close to 4, 000 songs from his collection to his website.

“I really didn’t know there were so many people in the world interested in this music,” Bolling told wired.com. “A lot of younger people go to the site, and it’s amazing that they hear songs today that originally were recorded 75 years ago. It’s pretty cool that people get to listen to this stuff. As far as copyrights, apparently I’m okay, because nobody’s come to shut me down or anything.”

He has plans to upload another 150 or so songs and then start going through another 2,500 records.? He estimates that it will take him another 10 to 15 years to finish his entire collection.? Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his story is the technology in which he transfers the records to Mp3s.

“I have an old 1950s Gerard turntable that I bought at an estate sale for two and a half bucks, and it’s got a GE (General Electric) VR cartridge in it, which is just excellent for playing 78s,” he said.

Still you’ve got to wonder about copyright infringement and the legality of his project, especially given the climate these days surrounding Mp3 websites, The Web Sheriff and other such issues.

The copyright situation surrounding some of these songs is as murky as their sound quality. But as with the music’s political content, Bolling said he has yet to receive a copyright-related complaint about the recordings being online. Everyone who has come across the recordings seems happy that they’ve reappeared, or at the very least, doesn’t care one way or the other — somewhat refreshing, in these times of copyright lawsuits and name calling.

“I get dozens of emails every day from people telling me how wonderful it is to hear this music, and people post links to my webpage on websites all over the world,” Bolling told us. “It’s truly amazing.”

Let’s hope Cliff can continue doing what he does for music lovers everywhere.? At this time his website was down, so there’s no telling if he’s swamped with traffic or if his site has been taken down.? Hopefully, it’s the former and not the latter.? I can’t wait to dig into his collection.

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  • WEB SHERIFF August 13, 2008, 3:01 pm

    Protecting Your Rights on the Internet
    Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
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    Hi James / TSO,

    It was interesting to read your article about Cliff’s collection and his fascinting project … .. as it happens, many of his early recordings may be out of copyright (or certainly heading that way) and, if he’s simply bringing rare and otherwise forgotten recordings back into the pulic conciousness (ie. as opposed to competing with legal and readily available sources of this music), which certainly appears to be the case, then he should be lauded for this public service.

    For your information, Web Sheriff has never criticized music fans for downloading free (even ‘pirated’) music when no legal sources were available to them – as was often the case in the early days of the internet … .. and we have always advocated making legal music available to fans and bloggers at prices that put convenience before cost – which, finally, is now becoming a reality in the on-line marketplace (assuming, of course, that you can access the material – which, in the case of Cliff’s collection, you probably couldn’t without his dedication !!).

    Thanks, once again, for your interesting write-up.

    Kind Regards,