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June 1994


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"Steven M. Blacher" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 8 Jun 1994 21:08:37 -0700
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>Can someone tell me how to go about buying rights to old movies and TV
>shows or direct me to a good book on the subject? I know you usually buy
>whole libraries. But how much is _The Killer Shrews_ or _Plan 9 From
>Outer Space_ compared _Citizen Kane_?
Dear John:
I like these small questions *grin*. They encourage me to stop lurking and
pitch right in.
In reality, it is too large a guestion for any definitive answer here. But
I will try to be helpful by making 3 points:
1. Rights to individual shows are sold as often as "whole libraries". All
transfer of a library means is that the new owner will be looking to
exploit the rights to the individual elements of his acquisition. And very
often, the new owner has no idea how to proceed or has other priorities
than the property you might be interested in. So don't be discouraged for
that reason (I will leave out here the 1873 reasons to be discouraged). You
can, of course, not merely discuss buying rights, but can propose to the
owner that you co-exploit the rights, or some of the rights rather than
all, based on his ownership and your idea (etc., in numerous combinations
and with numerous forms of care taken not to just have your idea ripped
2. Several of the books discussed from time to time on this list contain
some info on rights, as do others I see perusing any good book store shelf.
I just want to mention one few people know of (I think). From time to time,
The Association of the Bar of The City of New York (Committee on
Entertainment and Sports Law) distributes for free the best brief guide (20
pages) if you call and ask for it. The version I have was written in June
1990. Anyway, it's worth a call to them to see if they are in one of their
periodic charitable modes. The title is "Guide to the Acquisition of
3. Hints to other possibles I haven't seen mentioned here: "Producing,
Financing, and Distributing Film" by Baumgarten and Farber (published by
Drama Books Specialists, New York) is also okay for a brief account. UCLA
Extension has classes periodically on aspects of this topic. And then of
course, in an act of desperation if necessary, you can always speak to a
lawyer *grin*. None of the general purpose books really will do more than
make you somewhat conversant on the topic so you can discuss it
intelligently. I think it's worth it sometimes to read a few things and
then pay for an hour of a lawyer's times to get briefed; it's also a may to
establish a relationship with an attorney for when you do really need
Hope that helps just a bit.