Personal copies of videos on reserve
Wed, 28 Oct 1998 12:43:27 EST

Just my two cents. The rapidly changing market has really put the distributors
and the buyers in rough waters. The diminishing number of sales combined with
the vastly diminishing prices have made it tough for the independent
distributors to make a living. ("I'm wearing a cardboard belt!" from the
"Producers" comes to mind.) I believe the home video market alone for foreign
and "B" titles is down 50% this year compared to last due to the studio's
copy-depth schemes (if the stores have to buy 100 copies of the latest movie
to get a cheaper rate instead of 50, guess what that leaves in the budget for
our titles).

At the same time, Lyndon Johnson's great society and the free-flowing money to
the schools died about the time I was in high school (okay, I admit, that's
several administrations ago). So the money available is shrinking rapidly and
who can blame the schools for a) buying the same title at $29.95 instead of
$495 and forgoing the pleasures of public performance or b) choosing a title
on a subject for $39.95 instead of an equally good title on the subject at
$395. If the tapes are for individual or classroom use, I encourage most
libraries to wait until the home video comes out at the cheaper price. I know
Jessica does the same.

What I'm trying to say is that we're all fairly touchy these days especially
with all the new technologies erupting. I'm personally going crazy trying to
get original elements to my twenty to thirty-year old films to satisfy a high-
definition station's requirements. ("No, that soundtrack is DBX encoded.
You'll need to get us a DA-88 mix instead" etc.)

However, I do feel that the so-called "illegal" tapes can be questioned since
there are many on this list who go to great lengths to find the original
distributors and or producers to satisfy legal requirements. The mention of
dance history reminded me that I had to contact Merce Cunningham's office,
Anna Sokolow directly, and the Library of Congress Copyright office to track
down rights to films that Ohio University had in their possession so they
could be screened (two were for classes and one was public, if I remember). It
was my first introduction to film rights, and by the way, when I found the
owners in the long-run, they gave me written permission without any fee. It's
unbelievable what you can learn by just watching a film (not only credits, but
academy leaders and sprockets as well!) and knowing what to look for.

I know most of the distributors on this list are honest and pay royalties to
the producers. Therefore, I think all the distributors know exactly what this
personally means to the producers. They've worked hard on their films, in many
cases spent their own money, and the royalty checks are validations of their
work. Some, of course, are big enough that they help pay their rent. So it
doesn't really effect me if Mark Rappaport rips off MGM when he steals footage
to make his films. But it does piss me off to think that the artists who gain
royalties from these films are getting ripped off. In this way, its the same
with with these cassettes. It's a small matter, but we react if it's our
children and our producers who are being cheated.

Dennis Doros
Milestone Film & Video