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January 2002, Week 2


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Leo Enticknap <[log in to unmask]>
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Thu, 10 Jan 2002 10:16:54 +0000
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Response to Jessica & David...

Jessica: My institution would be perfectly entitled to videotape my
lectures and then market them as Internet courses without paying me
anything extra.  So far they have not done me this honour but I have
heard of similar things happening: one colleage at another institution,
for example, was required to hand over copies of all her lecture notes
and course material when she left, and this was subsequently handed over
to other lecturers so that the courses she designed continued to be
taught after she'd gone.

My contract states that any intellectual property content I generate in
the course of my employment becomes the copyright of the university, in
respect of which they pay me my salary.  As for trying to make money out
of bootlegging my published works, good luck!  (I've just had a book
proposal rejected by seven publishers on the grounds that it would be
unlikely to sell enough copies for them to break even, let alone make a
profit)  The only ACADEMIC film books that could ever hope to make
serious money for their authors are a very tiny number of mass market
undergrad textbooks which are heavily promoted internationally (e.g.
Bordwell & Thompson, Pam Cook's 'Cinema Book').  Is there anyone reading
this list who could honestly say that they've made enough money to live
on purely out of academic writing?

Secondly, I do not believe that the practice of studios withdrawing the
versions of films that precede a major rerelease (usually referred to as
a 'restoration', sometimes correctly, sometimes not) is a red herring or
a minor issue; I'd argue that it is very important.  These titles are
being substantially changed, and then the studios are trying to do what
Winston Smith did in '1984', i.e. erasing all evidence of the previous
version.  If the studios were willing to place good quality prints and
intermediate elements in a number of recognised film archives together
with an undertaking to allow unrestricted access for research viewing
and (within limits) rep screenings then I would agree that the use of
illegal copies for research is totally unacceptable in any
circumstances.  Universities aren't rich (not the ones I've studied and
worked at, anyway), but they can afford to send someone to London to
view a print.  But far to often, studios and distributors leave the
genuine researcher with no option but to use illegal copies.  As Paolo
Cherchi Usai notes in 'The Death of Cinema', the idea of copyright
started as a way of protecting intellectual property which cost money to
create, but has ended up as an over-powerful weapon in the hands of big
corporations.  And I'm sure that small distributors such as Kino suffer
from that just as much as higher education.

David: In my experience, I don't think your comments about academics
guarding their own intellectual property rights but wantonly ignoring
those of others is entirely fair.  There is no academic researcher I
know who would resort to pirate material first, and institutions spend a
lot of money on measures such as site licences for recording satellite
channels offair, educational use agreements and suchlike.  In my work as
an archivist I have had no end of problems with commercial broadcasters
abusing copyright but only one instance of an academic doing so (which
was out of ignorance, not malice).  This outfit in Miami sounds like
organised crime from the standpoint of anyone working within the
industry, and if they are selling vast numbers of illegal tapes the
question has to be asked as to why the authorities haven't done anything
about them.  But is it realistic to expect someone who sees their advert
in the humanities department of a university to know that they are an
illegal operation?  After all, placing your order with a credit card is
not the same thing as connecting up two VCRs and pressing the button.
Anyone with an ounce of sense should know that the latter is illegal,
but the consumer cannot realistically be expected to identify an illegal
trading operation that is masquerading as legitimate.  That's what we
have trading standards officers for.


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