John Belmont says in 130710 MMDigest: "I should think that most music
on piano rolls are in the public domain (anything pre-1923 in the US)."
Just to clarify: John is right regarding the original composition
embodied in the piano roll. But the arrangement or the performance
fixed into the piano roll survives the expiration of the copyright
granted to the original composer, I believe. So sound [mechanical]
recording copyright is a different animal from composition copyright,
and sound recordings made before 1972, which were formerly not
copyrightable at all, will now outlive most of us.
As I stated in my 130705 posting on U.S. copyright law, "The 1976
copyright revision and preliminary Congressional acts leading up to
the 1976 enactment finally made sound recordings copyrightable.
Various grandfathering provisions plus the Bono amendments make the
subject of sound recording copyright a minefield to explore. It
appears that it will be the year 2067 before sound recordings made
before February 15, 1972, fall clearly into the public domain."
As John says, the Harry Fox Agency may grumble about use violations,
but they aren't very interested in nickel-and-dime operations,
preferring to go after the big names in the industry.
Irondequoit, New York