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CBS Refuses To Preserve Jack Benny Footage 323

Posted by kdawson
from the thirty-nine-forever dept.
goosman writes "The president of the International Jack Benny Fan Club had the opportunity to review some holdings of the CBS vaults while assisting them with some transfers. In the vaults she found 25 shows on film that were unreleased, but in the public domain. The IJBFC offered to pay for the digitization and preservation of these shows; they got a letter of enthusiastic support from the Benny estate. CBS has so far refused to allow this preservation to happen." BoingBoing and TechDirt have both covered this act of cultural destruction.
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CBS Refuses To Preserve Jack Benny Footage

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:31PM (#30827660)

    Because they do exactly what they're told, regardless of how idiotic or despotic it is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:56PM (#30827816)

    Such as severe intestinal pain [pvtridvs.net].

  • by amRadioHed (463061) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:13PM (#30827896)

    Problem is these aren't their works, they're Jack Benny's works. They only held the copyright. If the Jack Benny estate supports releasing them then they should be released.

  • Re:Perfect Example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vranash (594439) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:28PM (#30827980)
    I've been complaining about this for a while regarding source code. The notable example I can remember pointing this out was Star Control 2 (Ur Quan Masters is the name of the Open Source release.) Due to the fact that they weren't required to SUPPLY a copy of their copyrighted work/code/etc in order to obtain copyright, the original source code for the DOS version of the game was lost years ago. Toys for Bob, the guys who had programmed it (But not distributed it, which is why it's not called the SC2 Open Source release) decided after many years of fan interest to allow a full open source release of the game, datafiles and all. However they'd lost the master source code for the game years before, which resulted in the release instead of the 3do version of the source code, which thankfully HAD survived all these years. My point with this being: In the 50-100 years or so when CP/M, MS-DOS, PC-DOS, Microsoft Windows 1.0, etc should be coming out of copyright, allowing people three to five generations from now to benefit from being able to explore the code behind the massively successful and historic works, those works will not exist, because in the greatest travesty of this generation (and there are many, both great and small), all of that information, code, documents, film, etc will be lost, because nobody other than the 'owners' was allowed to look at, back up, save, translate, and otherwise secure those culturally significant treasures for future generations. (And yes some people might not consider these items 'treasures' but they are important to both outlook and understanding of what went on during the latter half of the 20th century on through to today.
  • by catmistake (814204) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:31PM (#30828004) Journal
    Like David Letterman. Tell him about this, I'm sure he'd be interested in helping... more than any other entertainer, he respects the Great Ones.
  • by stinerman (812158) <nathan.stine@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:35PM (#30828024) Homepage

    Your point is well taken if you automatically assume that everything is copyrighted. It technically is today, but not in practice.

    Lincoln's estate should not be required to make his journals available because he never sought copyright protection for them. Same goes for your private works.

    CBS did seek such protections for their works, therefore, they should be required to make them available if they are the only copies in existence.

    If you want the power of copyright, you must release your works (that's the point of copyright), and should be required to make a copy on demand if your copy is the only one available. Preferably we'd have a copy on file at the Library of Congress, but we're not there yet.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jeff4747 (256583) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:40PM (#30828056)

    Your idea might have merit, if it did not involve either:
    1) Stealing CBS's property (taking the film somewhere else and copying it. The show might be PD, but it's their celluloid)
    or
    2) Using CBS's equipment/resources to copy it without their permission. (Also stealing).

  • Uh (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @12:19AM (#30828306)

    As I'm concerned the entire point of copyright is to get people to make stuff that will eventually become public domain. If they're going to destroy it before it gets there, why honor copyright in the first place?

  • by leehwtsohg (618675) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @12:45AM (#30828472)

    This has almost nothing to do with limiting copyright, quite the opposite. It is more of an example of what things would be like without copyright. Try to make a good copy of the Mona Lisa. Museums often don't allow you to bring a camera with a tripod to the museum, and for exactly this reason. They have the original copy, and have no good protection of copies being made.

  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:14AM (#30829076)

    Copyright is automatic. Could you please send me all your old VHS movies which have entered the public domain? I want to copy them.

  • by paganizer (566360) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .1evorgeht.> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:52AM (#30829274) Homepage Journal

    yeah. I get it.
    My point is is that if they were merely interested in preserving the media, CBS would probably be all for it. But (I would bet) there aren't; they want to preserve it, AND release it.
      If they were actually interested primarily in preserving a historical artifact, they would agree to do it and allow CBS to retain sole possession. CBS might even sweeten the deal a little and let them have a 160x140 15fps version to release into the wild in return...unless they really are concerned with music copyrights, or something on that line.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:19AM (#30829354)

    Grow up, this has nothing to do with copyright law.

    TFA even says that they're in the public domain. The only thing stopping anyone from preserving this stuff is the fact that the only copies in existence are owned by CBS. CBS owns the medium on which these things are stored and they are perfectly within their rights, even if the constitution prohibited any sort of copyright whatsoever, to refuse to give them to anyone for any reason they damned well feel like.

    They're not refusing the right to copy the work(they can't) they're refusing to hand over tape reels which they own to someone else. It's not the right thing for them to do, but it is within their rights, and would be within their rights even if intellectual property were outlawed.

    No, this has everything to do with copyright law, because copyright law is what creates this situation in the first place. Limiting the number of copies that can be made is what allows the original to be the only one left. This is what happens to our history, and it frequently happens for far worse reasons than the apparent stupidity occurring here.

    Take the old Tom and Jerry cartoons, or anything else that the producer is ashamed of having made now that it is no longer politically correct. These companies aren't going to permit anyone to distribute this stuff. But it's our history. So is that how it goes? The memory hole is copyright enforcement by copyright owners who don't want their history disclosed?

  • by bigmattana (646048) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:55AM (#30829814)

    Grow up, this has nothing to do with copyright law.

    You could maybe say this had nothing to do with copyright if it were not for the DMCA. Now we cannot legally copy works before they are public domain, but we do not have access to originals after they become public domain. That is a pretty screwy situation, wouldn't you say?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:15PM (#30837654)

    16mm kinescopes?! These are just airchecks! Jack Benny had aircheck recordings made of all his radio shows, and I'd bet he had 16mm kines made of the TV shows as well. I'd assume that the family still has them. From all the fuss I'd have thought we were talking about 35mm camera originals, or at least 35mm kinescopes, which could be of very high quality. Even the best 16mm kines look about as good as VHS, with every fifth frame dropped as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:30PM (#30837916)

    I would like to respond to a few specific points from Stan Taffel's comments:

    * "Laura Leff, the "President" of the Jack Benny Fan Club she began a few years ago" - I started the club 30 years ago, so we're a well-established and respected group that has been doing research on the work of Jack Benny for a long time.

    * "starting a Facebook petition against CBS" - I did not start this petition, but I do support the effort.

    * "CBS is also aware of the fact that Ms. Leff has a library of many existing shows
    and charges for making copies" - Our video library is just that...a library, which operates within the definition of our organization as a 501(c)(3) non-profit group. While we encourage voluntary donations for obtaining material from the library to support the costs of operating the organization and efforts such as preserving the shows, I have never turned down an order that didn't make a donation.

    * "CBS doesn't know how she was "supervising" a transfer of one of the color shows as that is not her job. True, it was an NBC special and maybe she was invited to see a conversion but "supervising"?" - Perhaps there's a clarification on the term "supervising". The Estate authorized me to arrange transfers of the color specials to long-term preservation media. I was at CBS Television City during this work. While I can't tell the folks who work there how to operate the equipment, I was there as an agent of the Estate to see the transfers being done.

    *"CBS isn't the only source for 16mm kinescopes. They even told her to try to find
    them through other avenues" - This is completely untrue. CBS never made any such statement to me.

    Additionally, I specifically asked my contact at CBS if this was an issue with us being an nonprofit and not a production company, since it was taking so long to get a response. I was told they were dealing with it just as they would for anyone else.

    I'm sorry that Mr. Taffel doesn't support our efforts to preserve this work, but I guess you can't have everyone agree with you. The Benny family wants his work to be out and available so that people can enjoy it for generations to come. And that's what the International Jack Benny Fan Club is trying to do.

    --Laura Leff
    President, IJBFC
    www.jackbenny.org

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