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January 2002, Week 2


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Leo Enticknap <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 9 Jan 2002 14:38:06 +0000
text/plain (64 lines)
Jessica Rosner writes:

>Actually that would be BLACK market dealers. If you are going to buy
>pirate bootlegs at least call them what they are. I know it
>irresistible  tempting for film scholars to buy an illegal tape but just
>don't blame us distributors if we can't afford to put out a "good" copy of
>a film because no one will pay for it.

If you're referring to people who obtain illegal copies when legal ones are
readily available then I agree.  If, however, you're talking about a title
which is not available legally, the situation becomes rather more
complex.  On the one hand you could argue that a copyright owner can do
what he or she likes with a film, including withholding it.  On the other,
there is a freedom of information issue.  You could argue that a film which
was once in the public domain is a legitimate object of study, and if a
scholar cannot obtain a copy of it legally then he or she is morally
justified in breaking the law.

I would especially support that argument in cases where rerelease versions
of a film, which are substantially different from their predecessors, are
issued and the predecessors withdrawn.  For example, it is impossible to
legally obtain prints of 'Fantasia' which predate the 1990 restoration in
which the dancing piccaninies are airbrushed out.  The new version of
'Apocalypse Now' was made by recutting the camera negative precisely to
ensure that the previous version will disappear.  Pre-1998 prints of 'Star
Wars' with the original Dolby 'A' mix have also been totally withdrawn, and
I wouldn't mind guessing that when the new version of 'ET' comes out later
this year (changes include guns being digitally replaced with
walkie-talkies), the existing version will also be withdrawn.

Now, in the incredibly unlikely event that I would ever want to write a
scholarly comparison of two versions of 'Star Wars' and I went to Geroge
Lucas asking him to rent me a 1977 release print (or at least a print made
off an intermediate element used to make the 1977 prints), he would
refuse.  In these circumstances, would you blame me for attempting to
obtain a black market copy?

Incidentally, 'grey market' and 'black market' aren't exactly the same
thing.  I understand 'grey market' to mean the retail sale of an object
which is legal but against the wishes of the manufacturer.  For example, if
I had bought 200 'Star Wars' videos before they were withdrawn in 1998,
from a wholesaler and paying good money for them, I would be committing no
crime if I were to sell them in a shop now, despite the fact that Lucas
would not want me to.  If, on the other hand, I obtained a 35mm print from
a collector, made a broadcast standard telecine transfer and sold VHS
videos produced from it, that would be a breach of copyright law (not to
mention possible theft of the print) and thus a 'black market' transaction.


Dr. Leo Enticknap
Director, Northern Region Film and Television Archive
School of Arts and Media
University of Teesside
Middlesbrough  TS1 3BA
United Kingdom
Tel. +44-(0)1642 384022
Fax. +44-(0)1642 384099
Brainfryer: +44-(0)7710 417383

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