[Videolib] Re: promotional copies

Brewer, Michael (brewerm@u.library.arizona.edu)
Mon, 16 Aug 2004 14:00:41 -0700

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I have been reading these exchanges with much interest (and am glad that
they were not "moderated"). I am pasting in a response I got from Peter
Maggs, a specialist in Russian copyright (that I got years ago before I knew
much about copyright and had some questions for him). One of my questions
was about what I then termed "festival prints" (but which were likely copies
given to people for review before festivals). I don't know if it will add
anything to the discussion, but I thought some might find it interesting.


It appears that all your questions are questions of U.S. rather than Russian
copyright law. I'll try to answer them.

> create an NTSC copy and then allow this copy to circulate (as classrooms
> around campus are not equipped with PAL machines).

While one-time showing of a movie in a classroom is fair use, regular
showing of the same film semester after semester is not, in my opinion. I
realize this practice is common and that the copyright owners seldom
complain. And if the University is comfortable violating the performance
right it for U.S. videos, it is probably comfortable violating it for
Russian Videos.

> I know this is less a
> question of Russian copyright law, than a question of how it fits into
> American copyright law. Most people I have queried about this feel it is
> not against copyright to do this, as long as the video in question is not
> available for purchase on NTSC.

I think it is clearly fair use if you buy a PAL movie (for which no NTSC
version is available) and convert it to NTSC for your own use. This
presents no economic threat to the copyright owner.

> My second question is a more difficult one, I think.

> Many Russian/Soviet films are available with subtitles only as "festival
> prints:" prints that were never offered for sale, but which were
> "distributed" to film festivals. Though these, hypothetically, are
> to be returned, they very rarely are, and often find their way into the
> personal collections of academics doing work in Russian/Soviet film. This
> is the case with the previously mentioned professor's collection. My
> question is: can one appeal to someone in Russia (the director, producer,
> original "distributor" of these films) for permission to add such a film
> a research collection in a library? (or for a copy of a film to be
> to a library)

This is a question of title to physical property - it has nothing to do with
copyright. I would need to know a lot more about what happened in the film
festival distribution process to know if the professor has acquired
ownership of the films. It would all depend on the very detailed facts of
how the films were distributed and on the law of the country where he came
into possession of them. E.g., French law would apply to transfers of
physical films at the Cannes Film Festival.

> authorize this for a film? Can a director (or other cinema worker)
> give a copy of a film to a library?

This again is a question of title to physical property. We have to ask who
owns the physical copy and then ask if the person who handed it over had
authority or apparent authority to hand it over. I go to a reception at
Cannes and am handed a plastic glass with win in it and a videotape.
Obviously the waiter has authority to turn over title to the glass of
champagne and probably also for the videotape. But it all depends on the
circumstances. If I go to the film studio and the janitor gives me 100
videotapes, I probably don't get title to them.

> Can they authorize its inclusion in a
> collection (in the given case, sort of retroactively making it a legally
> donated copy)?

Whoever owns the physical copy or an agent of the owner can certainly make a
gift of the physical peropty.

> available for sale/distribution. Do the expanded non-property rights of
> (moral rights) of Russian authors allow for this type of thing?

They don't have anything to do with physical property ownership.

> festival print issue, I would like to be able to request copies of
> commercially unavailable films from directors (or whoever might be the
> responsible party) for our research collection, but need to know how to
> out who, according to Russian law, is legally allowed to donate such a

Anyone who owns a copy can donate it. It has nothing to do with directors,
producers, scriptwriters, etc. Presumably the copy belongs to the
production company or the distribution company. So it is a question of who
has the chance to distribute it. The question is no different from that you
would face if you wanted samples of Russian vodka for your college's
beverage collection. You need to find who owns the bottles of vodka - the
distillery, the producer, the liquor store, etc.

BUT - if your question is who can give permission for regular classroom
showing, showing to the Russian club, etc., then it is a question of who
owns the copyright or is authorized to give such permission on behalf of the
copyright owner. This is a much more complex question because Russian and
Soviet copyright laws have changed over time. In the past, the right to
authorize use belonged to the studio, but often it could only exercise this
right through authorized Soviet trading agencies. More recently it has
belonged to the key persons responsible for making the film, but they have
generally signed this right over to the studio, which may have signed it
over to someone else. The first place to look would be at the copyright
office website - see http://www.loc.gov - to see if the copyright was
registered and if so in whose name. But the copyright is effective if not
registered. If it is not registered, the first place to inquire would be
the studio.

Michael Brewer

German & Slavic Studies and Media Arts Librarian

University of Arizona Library, A210

1510 E. University

P.O. Box 210055

Tucson, AZ 85721-0055

Fax 520.621.9733

Voice 520.621.9919


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