Re: Silent films and public libraries

Jessica Rosner (
Thu, 20 Jun 2002 08:32:14 -0700 (PDT)

Very good Dennis even if you are a Mets fan
I have little to add except that I think Public Libraries should be
particularly cautious about buying bad quality silent ( and foreign films)
from some of those unnamed companies that come in the ugly generic boxes
I am sympathetic to University Media people since professors may insist you
track down a title no matter how bad the quality ( and why academics who
teach film would want or use such a thing for other than personal research
is subject for a rant on another listserv). Public Libraries represent
the best source for the general public to see silent films since stores like
Blockbuster carry VERY few silent films and for the reasons outlined below
by Dennis it is a great disservice to stock the shelves with bad copies

Ironically the advent of DVD seems to make matters worse as companies like
Madacy take really bad quality silents on VHS and transfer them to DVD were
they look WORSE. I bet a number of libraries on this list have the truly
HORRIBLE Madacy METROPOLIS. While it was technically an illegal copy since
the German's GATTED in 97 there has been no enforcement at all and neither
distributors nor buyers have any way of knowing it was illegal. Sadly I am
that when Kino puts out our gorgeous restored version ( Ok I get to
brag)next year many libraries ( though hopefully not on this list), stores
and individuals will because of ignorance or lack of funds have to keep the
Madacy copy rather than buy a new one.

This is a long way of saying please be careful what you buy in silent films
and if the quality is not good enough RETURN it and wait for a better copy
because if you buy and keep the bad copies don't blame Kino and Milestone
when we can't afford to put out better ones or more importantly to me when
the studios who still own the rights the majority of silent films refuse to
release them because there is not a large enough market

Jessica Rosner
Kino International
333 W 39th St. 503
NY NY 10018

> From: > Reply-To: > Date: Mon, 17 Jun 2002 14:11:35 -0700 (PDT) > To: Multiple recipients of list <> > Subject: Re: Silent films and public libraries > > In a message dated 6/6/02 2:06:30 PM, writes: > > << To touch on another point which was raised: sometimes we end up with > NASTY, EVIL, BOOTLEG (to paraphrase Jessica) copies unknowingly. If we > see an interesting film listed as a new release from a reputable vendor, > we buy it assuming it is legal, or at least the rights holder has chosen > not to bother (that doesn't make it right, but how are we to know?). A > case in point: like Oksana, I will order any Lubitsch films I run > across, and when I saw a listing for a copy of "The Doll" I ordered it. > It is rather generically packaged with no easily identifiable company > name other than "Foreign Film Classics" on the photocopied sleeve, and > the quality of the print is pretty poor. If and when companies like Kino > or Milestone release silent films, I will always buy them and replace > any old, questionable copies, but the problem remains that we don't know > who the publisher is up front. It would seem to me that the burden falls > on the rights holder to do something about this rather than harangue us > for buying them openly from legit vendors in good faith. I suspect that > they won't do this unless the film in question offers them such huge > sales potential that it would be worth the legal battle, much as the > classical music labels never spent a lot of time and energy tracking > down the producers of bootleg opera recordings by their "exclusive" > singers. >> > > Dear John and company, > It's taken a while to respond to this, but I've been working hard on a Winsor > McCay project. Sorry John, but I don't agree with much of your email. I don't > hold the libraries criminally liable for unknowingly buying bootleg tapes. It > is definitely the fault of the vendor. > > ON THE OTHER HAND > > 1) It's morally criminal to provide your patrons with bad quality tapes. The > concept of silent films as flickering, faded, blotchy works of old-fashioned > crap was started by the inferior dupey prints of our youth and continues to > this day because of horrible video versions such as Video Yesteryear and > dupes of dupes of PAL to NTSC tapes illegally copied from European > television. Unknowing patrons will definitely turn their backs on taking > another chance with viewing another silent film if their first experiences > are that dreadful. > > 2) To knowingly keep such illegal tapes does provide an ethical concern. I > don't know why librarians treat books on a different ethical standard than > videos. Would most librarians buy smudged, dirty photocopies of books with > pages missing? > > 3) And you say that you'll buy the authorized or restored version when it > comes out? Well, sad to say, most libraries do not. There are many, many > films that Kino and Milestone have had to pass over because the bootleggers > have gotten there first. > > If the films are legitimately public domain, I don't see why a library > wouldn't take advantage of a rare acquisition or a cheaper price if the > quality is the same. If you do buy a tape and find it to be an illegal > bootleg, I would suggest returning it to the seller and make a complaint. And > I have to say, if a "reputable vendor" is selling bootleg tapes, then it > ain't totally reputable. I won't name names, but I personally don't buy from > these companies. > > And lastly, to say that it's the responsibility of the producer/distributor > to police their films is to deny one's personal choice in regard to ethics. > See "The Sorrow and the Pity" again and tell me otherwise. > > How'd I do, Jessica? > > Dennis Doros > Milestone Film & Video > PO Box 128 > Harrington Park, NJ 07640 > Phone: (201) 767-3117 or in the US (800) 603-1104 > Fax: (201) 767-3035 > Email: > Website: