In January 2011 the Universal Music Group, headquartered in Santa Monica, California, which traces its origins to 1898, donated its archive of recorded music, consisting of circa 200,000 metal, glass and lacquer master discs, recorded from 1926 to 1948, to the Library of Congress. The agreement called for the Library of Congress to own and preserve the music and to convert it to digital form for usability and long-term data preservation. Universal Music Group retained the right to commercialize the digital files.
"Under the agreement negotiated during discussions that began two years ago the Library of Congress has been granted ownership of the physical discs and plans to preserve and digitize them. But Universal, a subsidiary of the French media conglomerate Vivendi that was formerly known as the Music Corporation of America, or MCA, retains both the copyright to the music recorded on the discs and the right to commercialize that music after it has been digitized.
“The thinking behind this is that we have a very complementary relationship,” said Vinnie Freda, executive vice president for digital logistics and business services at Universal Music Logistics. “I’ve been trying to figure out a way to economically preserve these masters in a digital format, and the library is interested in making historically important material available. So they will preserve the physical masters for us and make them available to academics and anyone who goes to the library, and Universal retains the right to commercially exploit the masters.”
"The agreement will also permit the Web site of the Library of Congress to stream some of the recordings for listeners around the world once they are cataloged and digitized, a process that Mr. DeAnna said could take five years or more, depending on government appropriations. But both sides said it had not yet been determined which songs would be made available, a process that could be complicated by Universal’s plans to sell some of the digitized material through iTunes.
"Universal’s bequest is the second time in recent months that a historic archive of popular music has been handed over to a nonprofit institution dedicated to preserving America’s recorded musical heritage. Last spring the National Jazz Museum in Harlem acquired nearly 1,000 discs, transcribed from radio broadcasts in the late 1930s and early 1940s by the recording engineer William Savory, featuring some of the biggest names in jazz" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/10/arts/music/10masters.html?hp, accessed 01-10-2011).