Re: [Videolib] RE: public performance rights

Ben Achtenberg (
Tue, 13 Apr 2004 18:00:49 -0400

>Two reasons not to play it without PPR.
> 1) It's unethical (it's also illegal, but I like to think morality
> comes up for consideration first and foremost)
> 2) Who says the company didn't have its reasons? If a distributor
> who does not own the PPR sells a videotape to a college and it's used
> improperly, it can cause them problems with the producer. Trust me.

Per Dennis' s comments above, maybe it would help to have some other
real-life examples of reasons why a producer or distributor might be unable
or unwilling to authorize public performance of a particular work, even
though you already own a copy. These examples are from the world of
documentary, which is the one I inhabit, and they could apply to other
rights such as digitization, web streaming, etc., which universities might

1) Due to budget constraints, the producer may have only cleared
the educational rights to "underlying" copyrighted elements of the
production -- music and stock footage are the most common ones.

2) Producers of documentaries for television, even ones with big
budgets, may only clear the music and footage rights for a set period of
time (the broadcast "window"). At the end of that period, they may decide
that it's not worth the cost to renew these rights and, instead, pull the
film from distribution. Once they've done so, if you go back to them for
additional rights such as PP, it's likely they will not agree.

3) Restrictions may have been placed on the film for legal
reasons. Probably the most famous example is Fred Wiseman's first doc,
"Titicut Follies."

4) There may be ethical issues involved as well: I know of many
documentary projects where producers, in order to obtain access to
particular subjects or situations, have promised that the film would only
be used in the classroom. I'm also aware of at least a few films that have
been withdrawn from circulation at the request of the people in them,
because of privacy or other concerns.

Note that none of the above issues would affect your right to use the film
for the purposes for which you originally, legally, purchased it. But, when
you go back to request additional rights, you may be turned down.

Note also that films purchased from Fanlight include PPR. One of the most
frustrating aspects of my work as a distributor has been struggling with
filmmakers to get them to understand the need to clear all rights to the
material in their films -- and having to turn away otherwise terrific
productions for which the rights could not be cleared. It's not just
librarians that can't always get what they want.

Best to everybody,
Ben Achtenberg / Fanlight Productions
4196 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02131
(617) 469-4999 Fax: (617) 469-3379


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