[Videolib] Public performance rights question

Jessica Rosner (jrosner@kino.com)
Tue, 21 Sep 2004 10:33:04 -0400

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Ok I thought I was done but this is just getting too ludicrous
Bryan the nicest thing I can say is that you have NO CLUE how film
distribution works
and unless you want nothing but crappy 5th generation material available
your ideas
make no sense. Let me follow up


From: "Griest, Bryan" <BGriest@ci.glendale.ca.us> Reply-To: videolib@library.berkeley.edu Date: Mon, 20 Sep 2004 16:21:37 -0700 To: "'videolib@library.berkeley.edu'" <videolib@library.berkeley.edu> Subject: RE: [Videolib] Public performance rights question

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.

NO ONE WOULD PRESERVE THESE ELEMENTS if there was no LONG term value. If you want to say your exclusive rights are done in say 25 year, than there is NO incentive to protect or preserve material and companies like Kino & Milestone that put out rare movies on the tiniest of margins would be the first to go out of business since people could just dub any movie past 25 years.

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. I don't know if Library of Congress, UCLA or MOMA would laugh or cry if they read this. Right now archives hold thousands and thousands of "orphan" films, that is films that have NO copyright and they can only preserve a FRACTION of them before the disintegrate They could not possibly go around working on films that studios ALREADY have. Some archives do have large collections of both prints and negative material on studio owned films but these almost all on deposit by CONTRACT. meaning that the archive can not allow access or do anything without studios permission , this was a condition of the donation and has nothing to do with copyright, they would be violating the law if they permitted access without permission Studios themselves are the ONLY places with the financial resources to preserve & protect the majority of films and the must have the financial incentive to do it.. It can cost a million dollars or more to do a major restoration on say PORGY & BESS or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA . Why in the world would they do this if they did not own it exclusively The Murnau Foundation spent Millions over the years restoring METROPOLIS and Kino spent a pretty penny buying the rights to distribute in the US, this film HAD been in the Public Domain but was in fact RETROACTIVELY copyrighted under the GATT treaty ( along with virtually all other post 1923 European films) Had it not been it would never have been available and you could all have enjoyed the $6.95. 90 minute version. This all brings up the fact that all other western countries have STRICTER copyright laws that last longer and often don't allow ANY classroom exemption ( I am sure Oksanna and our friends in the north find this whole discussion funny). TRIP TO THE MOON made in 1895 is STILL under copyright in France and every major German feature film is protected there. The concept of Public Domain is virtually unknown. This is not ALL about big business & Disney, in Europe they see it as artists rights.

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 individual? 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.

Films are not like books & plays in terms of how they are made or valued. Many studio films don't break even for decades, Citizen Kane & Wizard of Oz did not. If you limit there rights to some short period like 20 years they will take fewer risks and make NO effort to preserve the material WHICH THEY OWN AND CAN DO WHAT THEY WANT WITH. Why should they bother saving ANY of those old camera negatives on classics if they can't exploit them

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?

Um for the record companies like Kino, New Yorker, Milestone , First Run etc have LIMITED contracts usually 7-10 years so WE rarely own anything forever. Most of these arguments are ridiculous and academic but I felt the need to respond to the idea that if copyright were shorter everything would be easy. What you would get at best is bad copies flooding the market studios trashing material & leaning even MORE heavily on blockbusters that pay off fast Europe would prevent the US from allowing any of their films to be allowed to go PD and as this is part of international treaty, they get to do that.

Bottom line we all KNOW the 95 term of copyright WILL NOT CHANGE. It was upheld by the Supreme Court and librarians & educators will not out lobby the entertainment industry on this. It MIGHT however be useful to try to get an easing on some aspects of educational use and clarification of existing law on this.

Now back to the important stuff

CUBS ARE TIED with 13 games to play

Jessica Rosner Kino

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