Thursday, March 17, 2005

Copyright (Term) Hinders Film Preservation

A local film historian is trying to restore and preserve old films that where shot in Ithaca and get them out on a DVD to the public: "There's a number of things I want to get because I want people to see them to know what was done here". On his laborious work on Beatrice Fairfax (1916) and coming restorations another film restorer points out how the continuously extended US copyright term may hinder to preserve some of these old movies:
"I hope it works out because it's important to save these films if we can. A lot of them just get chucked, even nowadays, because of the money and copyright law being changed--copyright has been extended longer than the life of the nitrate film itself, which is ridiculous and means you can't touch something to save before it crumbles."
Also interesting, an '93 statement of The Committee for Film Preservation and Public Access touching on some other copyright tricks:
The copyright owners have shown every indication that once the 75-year copyright terms expire, they will prepare revised versions that qualify for new copyrights, and the originals will be withdrawn from circulation.

Indeed, the Walt Disney Company has announced plans to permanently withdraw FANTASIA (1940) in favor of a new version, with some new footage. This new version will qualify for a new and separate copyright and the original version of FANTASIA will disappear and be forever unavailable, even after the original falls into the public domain.

In short, as their oldest films complete their 75-year term of copyright protection, the studios have considerable incentive to create new versions. Public domain is not going to lead to the widespread availability of the great films. Instead, it will be the cause of the disappearance of these motion pictures in their original versions.


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