[Videolib] Public performance rights question

Griest, Bryan (BGriest@ci.glendale.ca.us)
Mon, 20 Sep 2004 16:21:37 -0700

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1) I just spent four days and $20,000 on an amazing new high-def video
master of the 1925 silent film GRASS. If there were PD versions out there, I
couldn't do that.

Bryan: I'm not sure what you mean here. The original negative, or positive,
or whatever elements still exist, could most definitely be used to create
such an item, regardless of who owned it.

2) Studios, because their catalogs can be worth as much as $4.5 billion,
have spent an incredbile amount in restoring and preserving their films.
They have done more in the past ten to twenty years than any archive can
achieve. If Meet Me in St. Louis was in PD, would the studio spend so much
to create such a gorgeous DVD.

Bryan: A properly run and funded archive would also do this.

3) Life of creator. Okay, George Gershwin lived to be 37 as I recall. Ira G.
lived into his 80s. Should George (if he had a wife or heirs) be screwed
over for his short lifespan while Ira gets to rake it in? And would George's
music be PD while Ira still own copyright on his lyrics?

Bryan: While any of the co-creators are alive, they still would be able to
profit and retain copyright. Whoever George designated to receive his share
would still get it, until none of the original creators were still around.

4) Should a company who spent a million dollars to create a film in 1925 or
one who spends $300,000,00 for a film today should have less rights than an

Bryan: Absolutely. No one put a gun to their head to buy these things or pay
that much money for financing. I would imagine that the company that did so
made a fair profit on these films, or they wouldn't be able to continue
doing so in the future. Besides, I'm not arguing that they should not have
any rights, just that the term should not be unreasonable. What's the
theater lifespan of the most successful first-run movie? A year? Add on
another 10 or 20 to that for broadcast revenue and video sales and we're far
short of what is now in place, but the company still has decades to rake it
in. Throw in first dibs on new technology rights (i.e., the original rights
holder can still profit via a new release in the new format) and the company
is still in business.

The reality of copyright is such a gray and unfanthonable area that I would
be loathe to support any black-and-white solution. But leave me to say it is
far easier to be a consumer than a creator, trust me.

Bryan: Easier in what way? Surely you can't be complaining about the way
things have been legislated so far, can you? Once the initial hurdle of
purchasing the rights to something has been jumped, you control everything
forever. Granted, that hurdle may be a big one, but that gets factored into
your purchasing price and the item cost to the consumer, does it not?

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