Musicians in uproar as CBC destroys its library

Musicians in uproar as CBC destroys its library


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2018

The public broadcaster Radio-Canada in Montreal has let it be known that it is digitising its record collection and will destroy over 200,000 CDs when the process is finished next year.

CBC is downsizing and an executive said it could not give away the recordings ‘without first verifying the copyright situation,’ which would be ‘too expensive.’

It is not yet known what will happen to 200,000 LPs, 70,000 78s and a unique collection of music manuscripts, many of which were donated to the station in the assumption they would be preserved.

Surely some public-spirited person must come forward to offer the music a safe home?

Read on here.



  • David E says:

    Certainly the manuscripts, and probably the recordings also, should be given to the Schulich School of Music at McGill – Canada’s leading music conservatory and not a million miles away.

  • Geoff says:

    I have been trying to sell my 200+ CD collection for a $1.00 each without much success. Many great recordings, Lipatti, Klemperer etc.
    Make me an offer I can’t refuse!

    • collin says:

      I have thousands of CDs and packaging material that the local dump refuses to take unless I paid my annual recycling and usage fee. I will treat anyone to a nice lunch if they can come and drive my collection far far away.

      Otherwise, I’m dumping them in the ocean the next time I take a trans-Atlantic cruise, and it’ll end up in the food chain, and all of you will eat my CD collection, one bar at a time.

    • Nora Klein says:

      Im interested! I lost lots of CD s in the Houston flood: I still don’t know the extent. I’m particularly interested in chamber music. Contact me at

    • kirk muspratt says:

      please contact me at
      thanks much, kirk

  • msc says:

    This is typical CBC/bureaucratic excuse making. Copyright does not prevent giving away something. And the sale of used c.d.s does not also violate copyright (or at least seems not to — there are still lots of stores selling used discs). They just don’t want to bother. It’s bloody sad, but the CBC has become obsessed with popular culture and music and I doubt there are many people in its senior levels that care at all about good music and art.

    • Emil says:

      It is a breach of copyright if you also make a digital copy for yourself of the CD. And surely one can expect the public broadcaster of Canada to respect copyright law scrupulously?

      If you sell a CD and keep a copy for yourself, or if you go to the library, borrow a CD, and digitise it, that’s a minor infraction and no one will prosecute you for it. But surely, if a public corporation does it with 150 000 CDs, that’s way worse?
      Also to note, many of these CDs were received for free; how would you feel about a public corporation profiting by selling CDs it received for free from artists?

  • Doug says:

    Classical musicians: the Multicultural Monster is coming to eat you too.

  • Jon says:

    Give them to National Library of Canada.

    • Emil says:

      In the case of Canadian content, Library and Archives Canada is a legal deposit institution, so they already own copies.

  • geoff says:

    Just sold about 40, any further offers?

  • steven holloway says:

    There may be a vaster problem. The issue presented here concerns only the CBC French-language radio service and only the archive in Montreal. And so, is the CBC planning to so ‘downsize’ its archives in other provinces, other cities across Canada? Clyde Gilmour’s collection is mentioned, but I’m not sure that is in Montreal. And the legendary Bob Kerr also left his collection to the CBC — he broadcast from Vancouver. Then there is the question of tapes of live broadcasts, though it wouldn’t shock me if the CBC never preserved such in the first place — perhaps someone can tell us. But the ways of the CBC are quirky, to use a kindly word; its secrecy obsessive, and its paranoia beyond belief.

    • V.Lind says:

      Clyde Gilmour was a Toronto resident. It is DEVOUTLY to be wished that if he left his incomparable collection to the CBC, it had the rider that it was not to be destroyed, or should be passed on if no longer wanted.

      Same re Bob Kerr’s.

      I can see the problem as outlined in LeDevoir, but it seems a great pity they could not be donated to charities that could sell them for small sums to people who still like them. It’s amazing how many people regard their investment in a player, dedicated shelving etc. and prefer to keep them. Not to mention those who don’t like the sound off online sources as opposed to well-considered set-ups, speakers, etc.

    • laurence james says:

      all i want to make me happy would be the playlists from Off the Record

  • Emil says:

    Lots of imprecisions here, corrected in Le Devoir’s article on the subject:
    1- Radio-Canada is destroying CDs because they have digitised the whole collection, and it is a breach of copyright to give away a CD while making a digital copy for yourself. So, when they say it is ‘too expensive’, they mean it would be unfeasible for them to contact every rightholder individually to obtain permission to donate the CD. CBC has no choice – and, presuming it would cost more than 10$/CD in staff costs to obtain and process permissions, it’s also a more economic solution.
    2- They will be donating all CDs (about 60000) of which they have multiple copies. They will destroy 150000 CDs (again, all of which have been digitised).
    3- Rare and valuable CDs will be preserved.
    4- Vinyls, and sheet music, will not be destroyed, as they are not digitised. That’s over 270 000 vinyl discs and 78s, which will be donated to educational/public organisms which promise not to sell them.

    So, in summary, no music is lost, and physical supports of digitised music are eliminated, a fairly normal decision to make. So is the uproar about wasted plastic, or what is it about exactly?

    • SVM says:

      It could, however, be argued that keeping the originals should be a public duty for such a large corporation, and that, if they are unwilling to do so, they should give away the recordings *without* digitising them (or, if already digitised, give away the digital files *with* the originals and delete said files completely from their own servers), so that another institution can assume this duty. As Emil explains so well, the copyright issue arises because CBC is intending to keep a digital copy.

      In the UK, copyright law is even stricter, and it is actually illegal to format-shift a sound recording, even for personal use (which is reasonable enough, because if your CD were to be subsequently stolen, can you be trusted to delete all the digital files you made?). Libraries and archives have an exemption under a provision known as “Library Privilege”.

  • Mark says:

    The issue here seems to be that the CBC is being forced into smaller quarters because of budgetary constraints, so they are getting rid of their library instead of firing the management. This is history repeating itself: the probable reason the library at Alexandria burned down is that someone in management decided he needed the space…

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Shiny, silver drinks coasters for every Canadian citizen!

  • Gill Horrocks says:

    The loss of untranscripted shellac treasures surely can’t be allowed to happen?

  • Bill Poser says:

    Copyright is not a matter of natural law or the Constitution. It is created by law and may be modified by law. Parliament could simply pass a law exempting the CBC on this occasion, declaring that making a digital copy for its archive does not, for legal purposes, constitute making a copy. That would solve the problem without causing any significant harm to the economic interests of the copyright holders.