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January 2002, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 9 Jan 2002 09:26:34 -0500
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> It's my understanding that "grey-market," when used properly, of >course, refers to a bootleg of a film that is public domain under
>the Harrison Act.  Video Search of Miami would be an example of a >true grey-market company, since they immediately delete anything
>that is made illegal by an official release.

No, Jessica was right that "grey market" is a euphemism; after all a film in the public domain has nothing "grey" about it since it would be completely legal to dupe whatever you wanted.  However, some of these companies like Video Search (VSOM) have incorrectly claimed what they're doing is legal under the "Berne Act" (the Harrison Act concerns narcotics/drugs).  The problem is that they have Berne exactly backwards, not surprising since they didn't even get the name right:  It's actually the Berne Convention.

VSOM claims that according to Berne "films unreleased in the United States, including original version of films altered and/or edited for release in the United States, are not protected by American copyright."  But these are exactly the films that are *protected* by the Berne Convention.  According to Berne, any work that's properly copyrighted in its country of origin is also given copyright protection in any other country that's a Berne signatory (which includes most countries).  So for instance, a film that's copyrighted in Japan is given in the US the same copyright protection that a US film would receive (& US films are given in Japan the same protection there that a Japanese film would).  Doesn't matter if it's "unreleased" or an alternate version or whatever.  If it's copyrighted in Japan (or France or Italy) and somebody copies it here then that's a copyright violation.

So nearly everything VSOM sells is a copyright violation.  I've never understood why they've been listed for years in Maltin's TV Movies book like a legit dealer.

You can read the text of Berne at or a little historical background at

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