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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 conureman (748753) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:09PM (#30827536)

    Why do these people run things?

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:14PM (#30827552)
    As a big fan of Jack Benny's work I have to say CBS aren't a bunch of mother fuckers. They're a bunch of horse fuckers.
  • Benny is great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XanC (644172) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:16PM (#30827574)

    A lot of the stuff in Looney Tunes / Merry Melodies comes from Benny. And he's the master of timing. It's brilliant.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:19PM (#30827596)

    Whenever the camera focused on an old-timey radio the bots would call out "The Jack Benny Program!"

    I'm double-dating myself, first for referencing mst3k and second for getting the joke. But dating yourself is legal in west virginia.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:20PM (#30827600)
    Seriously, refusing to allow this public domain work to be restored at no cost to them means they are not holding up their end of the copyright bargain and so they should now lose their rights and protection under said laws. There's a social contract at work and it's stupid acts like this and the Sonny Bono perpetual protection of Mickey Mouse Act that make me have no qualms about "pirating" material when I feel like it. If they don't want to play nice then I see no reason to play their game at all.
    • by fandingo (1541045) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:00PM (#30827838)

      The thing is that they never distributed them. That's like saying that Abraham Lincoln's estate is legally required to make all of his private journals available to you.

      I agree that's its a dick move to keep these works locked up, but I think that it would be dangerous to Force people to make their out-of-copyright works available. Copyright provides powerful tools to entities to control their creative works, but some protection is needed afterwards. If I created something privately, then no one should be able to compel me to release just because its copyright is up. Yes, if they have a copy of the work, then they are free to do what they want with it. It's sort of like the GPL; you don't have to opensource your changes, unless you distribute it. If you keep it private, then it's fine. That's how I feel about this; if they want to keep it private, that's fine.

      Again, I wouldn't do the same thing if I were in their position, but I certainly understand why they do it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by amRadioHed (463061)

        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.

        • by muridae (966931) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:25PM (#30827956)

          Who owns the film? That is really the only question the needs to be answered. If CBS owns it, then there is nothing the fans or anyone else can do other than raise hell till someone listens.

          Look, if I owned a classic Picaso painting, just because one of Picaso's theoretical descendants want it digitized would not give them to right to take the painting from me. Copyright only limits what the owner of the media can do when distributing or reproducing it, and it expiring does not suddenly put restrictions on the owners. In fact, all it does to CBS is remove restrictions on what they can do with the film.

          • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @12:37AM (#30828422) Journal

            But nobody here is proposing that your Picasso be taken from you. Some folks just want to hire a professional, at no cost to you (except, perhaps, to be a courteous host) to shoot a picture of it. They want to do this so that more of the world can see the work, not because they'd like to deprive you of your possession, which you would retain.

            (Note: I'm not saying that you should let them photograph your hypothetical Picasso, nor am I casting any judgment in the matter. I'm just clarifying your analogy, which fairly reeked of the "copying == stealing" mantra, whether you intended it that way or not.)

        • by demonlapin (527802) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:26PM (#30827962) Homepage Journal

          They only held the copyright.

          That makes them their works. I'm with fandingo; they are being supreme jerks about this, but it's their property and they can do as they please with it. Now, if there were copies out there somewhere, those could be legally redistributed (unless the concerns about songs in the skits are correct).

      • by stinerman (812158) <nathan.stine @ g m a i l . c om> 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.

        • 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 denmarkw00t (892627) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @12:04AM (#30828202) Homepage Journal

        For some reason, I can't mod you up. I couldn't mod another thread either, FF is acting up. I'll say I support your stance.

        As much as I don't agree with it, the content still belongs to CBS. You can't expect me to give up something I own just because the copyright on it has run out if I still own it and have never opened it up for distribution before. If I sold someone a copy at some point, and the copyright expired, they could copy it and distribute it at will, but if I own the only copy and don't want to give it up, I don't - and shouldn't - have to.

        CBS is still a bunch of dicks, this much is clear.

    • There's a social contract at work

      Well, there actually isn't a contract. Copyright provides monopolistic control of a work for a period of time. That is it. The receiver of those benefits has no duty or obligation to do anything when copyright expires.

      You are right that CBS is being completely stupid in what it is doing (and I have written to them to complain), but they have no legal obligation to preserve anything.

      But since there is no contract, there is no obligation by the people to preserve the length of the copyright protections. C

    • by Urza9814 (883915)

      That's not at all how public domain works. Should I have all my copyrights to everything I've ever done revoked just because I can't manage to produce a copy of a picture I drew in kindergarten that happens to be public domain now? After all, everything you create automatically has copyright.

      Just because it's public domain, that doesn't mean they are required to GIVE you a copy of it, or do anything at all to facilitate that copying. It only means that if you happen to have a copy of it, you can freely dist

  • Eminent domain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:20PM (#30827606)

    Perhaps the federal government could appropriate the masters via eminent domain and make them available through the Library of Congress.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They can probably use the Patriot Act, it can do everything.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Perhaps the federal government could appropriate the masters via eminent domain and make them available through the Library of Congress.

      No, the lobbyists will explain to the people in government that if they can't copyright it and make money off it, nobody gets it because it's their property after all and they can do what they want with it. It's not like they have a legal obligation to preservation of history and culture.

      What is the point of buying copyright laws if you can't be sure to be able to release

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:21PM (#30827612) Homepage

    ...by copyright, as long as CBS owns the only copies they control it and it is, therefor, not in the public domain. The copies are their property to do with as they see fit.

    • by Black Sabbath (118110) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:32PM (#30827672) Homepage

      > The copies are their property to do with as they see fit.

      Indeed, and since they have (as yet) not figured out a way to "monetize" these shows, they would, I'm sure, rather see the tapes destroyed rather than release them for consumption in the public domain.

      I'm pretty sure this behaviour can be referred to as an act of bastardry.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I'm pretty sure this behaviour can be referred to as an act of bastardry.

        I'm pretty sure this behaviour can be referred to as an act of capitalism.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bzipitidoo (647217)

        Then why haven't they quoted a price? In capitalism, everything has a price. Also, fans could organize and ask them what their price is, possibly even scrape up some dough and make an offer.

        But not sure I like the precedent of rewarding them for being cowardly greedy jerks. So also, or only threaten to sue them if they won't play ball. That can be a credible threat. Anyone can sue for any reason. Even if a suit is tossed out of court, it still costs them. But it may be possible to come up with some

  • Perfect Example (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EzInKy (115248) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:25PM (#30827632)

    This is a perfect example of all that is wrong with copyright as it exists today. Protection is granted to creators in order to increase works available to the public, not hide them away.

    • by Eudial (590661)

      This is a perfect example of all that is wrong with copyright as it exists today. Protection is granted to creators in order to increase works available to the public, not hide them away.

      Eh? The copyright has expired. So what does this have to do with copyright? The only right involved is the right to control your own material possessions (i.e. the physical recordings). That doesn't expire.

    • 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 adolf (21054)

        Eh?

        Just because I've released a binary under protection of copyright, doesn't mean that the source code used to produce that binary should ever become public just because the copyright on the binary has expired.

        Your tirade is absurd.

        What else do you wish for from Santa Claus? That when copyright on a book expires, all of the author's original notes, manuscripts and sketches become public? Or when copyright on a movie expires, that the script become public? That when the protection expires on an article o

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

          by selven (1556643) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:31AM (#30829990)

          If you have a book, you can copy and modify the book, building on it and creating derivative works. If you have a program, you cannot do that without source code. The whole point of copyright is to encourage people to create works which can eventually be built upon. If that is impossible then copyright has no purpose.

    • by pclminion (145572)

      The works were never released. What you are asking is the equivalent of breaking into my private residence and gaining access to my grandfather's diaries. They were copyrighted by him the moment he wrote them, and that copyright is now expired. But you can't have them. No sir, fuck off.

  • by Jiro (131519) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:25PM (#30827636)

    CBS claims that there could be music clearance problems--which is an entirely legitimate possibility. The episodes are probably public domain because when they were made copyrights had to be renewed and there's little chance they were renewed. But if the music came from any outside source, it's quite possible that they *did* renew it, leaving the music in copyright today--and leaving CBS liable for serious damages in court if they just give the episodes to some fans to copy. Blame the copyright system, but do not blame CBS.

    • Since when is someone liable for what someone else does with a copy sold or loaned to someone else? If I run down to the local library and make a copy of a CD, is the library on the hook? Definitely not.

      CBS can sell or lend their reels to this group and say "oh, by the way, the music might still be copyrighted, so you might want to check on that if you're going to make copies".

      • by DynaSoar (714234)

        Since when is someone liable for what someone else does with a copy sold or loaned to someone else?

        Since the copyright laws were passed. They allow for selling of a portion of rights to parties. What those parties do with the copies, or by their inability to control the material they're entrusted with, what they allow to happen to those copies, can devalue the portions of the rights not entrusted to them. They can be held liable for loss by the owner. Likewise, if the owner allows the portion under their control to be compromised, devaluing the portion they previously sold rights to, they can be held lia

      • Is your local library as rich as CBS? Because it's all about how deep the pockets are...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by muridae (966931)
        Actually, the library can be if they know you have the intent to violate a copyright and assist you. So would CBS. The phrase you want to look up is "vicarious infringement".
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dachannien (617929)

      In that case, what does CBS mean by, "there are so many issues with those shows, that even if we took the time to figure it out, we still almost certainly wouldn't do the deal"?

      (From TFA, of course.)

    • by Jiro (131519) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:40PM (#30827718)

      Replying to my own article because it's even worse than that, as said in a very interesting comment in the boingboing article: apparently
      1) the person who started this whole thing sells copies of shows, and they're not all PD.
      2) she's a fan who's using this as an excuse to expand her collection.
      3) her claim that she was "overseeing the color specials transfer" seems to be a lie.
      4) CBS is willing to license these episodes out; they did not, as falsely claimed, say that it would be too much trouble even if they could iron out the legal issues
      5) the episodes are not some unique thing that only CBS has copies of

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:44PM (#30828094)

        Indeed, the slashdot summary *is* wrong. See posting #31 at the BoingBoing article -- a Ms. Laura Leff is a major fan of Jack Benny. She sells both PD & copyrighted Benny shows:

        "The 25 Benny shows as well as the full run of the series is stored at CBS in state of the art facilities... CBS is also aware of the fact that Ms. Leff has a library of many existing shows and charges for making copies; dupes of both copywritten and PD shows are offered from her website."

        CBS seems to be fairly reasonable; Ms. Leff apparetnly is making much noise for her own benefit.

    • by EzInKy (115248) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:44PM (#30827740)


      Blame the copyright system, but do not blame CBS.

      How much money did CBS contribute towards getting the current copyright laws enacted?

  • ... in 'public domain'. If CBS denys us access to our property, we should just file a thrft report with the local police department.
    • by stinerman (812158) <nathan.stine @ g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:42PM (#30827730) Homepage

      This is a problem with the current copyright system as well. There is no mandate that a copy be put on file with the Library of Congress so that when the copyright does expire, someone might have access to it.

      By my calculations, the copyright on Windows 1.0 expires in 2080. Do you think anyone will have a binary sitting around, much less the source to that program at that date? Highly doubtful.

      • by vranash (594439)
        I actually made a longer post in a reply further up about that very issue. I forgot to mention the lack of some form of escrow or a required copy in order to provide the copyrighter with their desired protections. If such a thing became required to enforce copyrights, perhaps more information from this generation, culturally significant or not, would survive for future generations to explore.
      • the copyright on Windows 1.0 expires in 2080. Do you think anyone will have a binary sitting around [...] at that date?

        For the sake of future generations (and their computers), I certainly hope not.

    • by muridae (966931)

      The content is yours to copy and redistribute as you wish, once the information is in the public domain. The individual manifestation of that data, be it book, film, whatever, is not covered by copyright and is owned. It's owner, in this case CBS, gets to decide who has access to it.

      Really, is this so confusing? /. rants about how the MP/RI/AA want to control physical media, but then people make strange arguments like this one.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      It was unreleased, therefore it's private property.
  • And I don't mean The CBS The!
  • Well! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Alien Being (18488) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:27PM (#30827646)

    Those films can't be in the public domain. They're only 39 years old.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dachannien (617929)

      At the time, you had to explicitly renew your copyright at 28 years [upenn.edu]. For example, a fair number of old Warner Brothers cartoons from the 1930s and 1940s are in the public domain [wikipedia.org] because the owner at the time, Associated Artists Productions, failed to renew the copyright.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        FWIW, the gp's joke is a reference to Jack Benny's perpetual age of 39. He celebrated it 41 times.

        BTW-- for anyone unfamiliar w/Jack Benny's work, he was amazing. A wonderful comic persona--he played a kind of exaggerated alter ego based on himself, much like Woody Allen or Gary Shandling or Larry David -- known for his self-deprecation and wry delivery... he had awesome timing... he'd would typically get laughs just from his silent reactions...

        I used to watch his show back on CBN, which was an extension

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by AgentBurbank (1282070)

      Those films can't be in the public domain. They're only 39 years old.

      Perhaps CBS is just THINKING IT OVER!

  • by zuki (845560) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:31PM (#30827654) Journal
    Found something on Boing-Boing's comments which might make us take this with a grain of salt:

    Here (with his permission) is a comment from Stan Taffel, who is a media preservationist and posted this to the Association of Moving Image Archivists listserv (AMIA-L). According to Stan, this controversy has been orchestrated by a fan club person who sells copies of the shows. Stan also tells me he's just been speaking with a company who is trying to secure a license to release the shows. Again, I'm just reporting what others have said, and have no personal stake or opinion other than that these shows should be made available to those who fervently want to see them.

    Stan's comment:
    "I have spoken to my source at CBS and am happy to report that the "hype" is just what it is; all hype.
    CBS is ready and willing to sub license any property (as they did with Studio One etc.) for a fee.
    Laura Leff, the "President" of the Jack Benny Fan Club she began a few years ago, is very good at
    generating P R and has done a very good job at starting a Facebook petition against CBS and getting
    articles and giving interviews pleading for the release of 25 Benny shows. She says that CBS has "locked"
    these films away and will not be preserved. This is not the case.
    The 25 Benny shows as well as the full run of the series is stored in state of the art facilities. The film elements
    are safe and in good shape. CBS is also aware of the fact that Ms. Leff has a library of many existing shows
    and charges for making copies; dupes of both copywritten and PD shows are offered from her website.

    While I applaud her tenacity and love for Jack Benny (she organized a fine website and a convention a few
    years ago), it seems that the truth has been diluted and the actual state of the predicament has been reported
    in error. She is great at "self promoting". What it boils down to is this: She is a huge fan who just wants to
    have copies of the shows and has gone this route to try and obtain them. 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"? She is friends with Joan Benny (Jack's
    daughter) so perhaps that's how she was invited to see the inner workings. She has gained attention to her
    fan club and her plight, however misrepresented it is.

    CBS is not the enemy here; they will sub contract The Jack Benny out. As these are supposedly P D shows
    (and that's not definite) there are other sources to locate them and once they're out, anyone can dupe them
    and sell them for no fee. CBS isn't the only source for 16mm kinescopes. They even told her to try to find
    them through other avenues, fully aware she wants to add them to her "collection".
    Should these films be available - of course. However, business is business and CBS pays for the storage
    of these and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of elements and that's not cheap. To give copies to her
    for her archive is not so simple even if she pays for her copies. Maybe some company will come forward
    and these shows will be seen. Time will tell."
    • by ari_j (90255) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:39PM (#30827710)
      So kdawson posted a bunch of ill-informed sensationalism and invective on the Slashdot front page? I'm shocked.
    • by Alaren (682568)

      I understand that things like this get distorted along the way.

      However, business is business and CBS pays for the storage of these and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of elements and that's not cheap.

      However, this line here is the real crux of the matter, and I think reflects a market failure. Because these shows are in the public domain (I haven't verified this, but I'm taking the claim at face value), CBS can't see a way to profit from them--if they release these episodes on DVD, there will be nothin

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        However, this line here is the real crux of the matter, and I think reflects a market failure.

        There's nothing 'market' about copyright: it would not exist without government and is entirely a government failure.

        Because these shows are in the public domain (I haven't verified this, but I'm taking the claim at face value), CBS can't see a way to profit from them--if they release these episodes on DVD, there will be nothing illegal about ripping and sharing them.

        I don't believe that's true: perhaps I'm wrong, but I believe that CBS would have copyright on the DVD even if the shows on it are public domain... anyone else with a copy of the original show would be allowed to make their own DVD, but not to copy one that CBS created.

        • by jeff4747 (256583)

          I don't believe that's true: perhaps I'm wrong, but I believe that CBS would have copyright on the DVD even if the shows on it are public domain.

          CBS would be able to copyright any new stuff they added, like the DVD's menu. However, the shows themselves would be public domain. Someone else could copy just the shows from the DVD, repackage them (with their own copyrighted menu) and distribute that.

          However, IANAL, so I could easily be wrong.

      • What's the market failure? The Internet is the market and it has established a price of "free" for all content that can legally be redistributed. Repeat after me: "Markets set prices. They do not determine what is available." CBS obviously believes that the value of Jack Benny is more than "free", and it appears that they are not crazy to think so. What they want is some kind of compensation for having retained good-quality tapes for all these years instead of the third-generation kinescopes that are appa
  • If I write a book when I'm 20, then publish it when I'm 70, my Copyright will extend from the year I published it, not when I wrote it.

    A show like this is the work of many people (not just one person). Therefore if CBS wants to release the footage or destroy the footage, it's up to them. While I'm unfamiliar with Jack Benny, but if there is a 'big stink' raised in regards to this not being released, then they might decide to make anyone visiting their vault sign an NDA about its contents.

    But if they don't d

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PCM2 (4486)

      If I write a book when I'm 20, then publish it when I'm 70, my Copyright will extend from the year I published it, not when I wrote it.

      That's not true. Since at least the Berne Convention in the 1970s, copyright protection is automatic, and publication is not a prerequisite. Your work is copyrighted the instant you lift your pen. Under the Berne Convention, however, whether you wrote the book when you were 20 or when you were 70, the copyright would still extend to 50 years after your death. Later amendments to copyright law in the United States have extended the term further, and the situation can get fairly complicated for "works for hir

  • by belmolis (702863) <billposerNO@SPAMalum.mit.edu> on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:46PM (#30827762) Homepage

    The headline and article are grossly misleading. CBS is not opposed to preserving this material. Rather, it is unwilling to assume the legal costs of protecting itself against copyright infringement suits if it distributes the material. While I agree that this is an unfortunate effect of the current copyright regime, it simply is not true that CBS is refusing to preserve these shows. They have not discarded them or destroyed them; they're keeping the originals in their vault.

  • Poor NBC (Score:5, Funny)

    by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @10:53PM (#30827796) Journal

    Poor NBC. They can't even hold the title of "biggest jerks" for more than a week. Congratulations, CBS, the new champs.

  • How could they drop one of the most important people on TV? hmmmm.

    Even the historical record would be of value 50 years later. I'm sad

  • Not so fast (Score:4, Insightful)

    by S-100 (1295224) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:05PM (#30827866)
    Just because a performance is in the public domain doesn't mean that the physical master tapes cannot be privately owned and controlled. I suspect that part of CBS's reluctance to release the programs is the less-than-politically-correct portrayal of Rochester, just as Disney has buried some if its work in its vaults (e.g. Song of the South). Before you condemn them all as a bunch of idiots, releasing the masters is a zero-gain proposition for the owners, and there is a potential downside that it's their duty to consider.
  • 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.
  • I fully expect more of the same, as long as its going into public domain and cant be used as a money maker by the studios more and more titles are going to mysteriously suffer celluloid decay...after all what good is preserving it if its not going make you any money. At least that the view of most of Hollywood. Good will is fine as long as its something like a tribute or telethon that can bring in ratings and ad revenue.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:48PM (#30828112) Homepage Journal

    I wonder if the National Archives would consider beginning eminent domain proceedings to force a buyout of the material.

    As it is in the public domain, its "eminent domain price" would be its auction value of the originals after high-quality copies have been made available to all for free.

  • Just Donate Them (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hutz (900771) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @11:48PM (#30828114)
    The Museum of Television and Radio is now known as The Paley Center for Media [paleycenter.org] - named for William S. Paley, the founder of CBS. This isn't that hard to figure out.
  • 'nuff said.
  • There is so much in the summary, the articles and the web pages associated with this that fall somewhere between hype and bald faced lies that I'm not going to waste my time picking it apart. Someone saw a sympathetic audience and played it. You've been played like Clapton's Strat and you made exactly the music they wanted you to. Too bad nobody saw fit to investigate any of this. Anyone that actually gave shit about anything more than the chance to spout off might have at least tried to contact any of the

  • 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.

    • Try to make a good copy of the Mona Lisa

      Copyright is about making an artificial scarcity, not quality control.

      Museums often don't allow you to bring a camera with a tripod to the museum, and for exactly this reason.

      Flat out wrong, twice.

      Many museums permit camera's, tripod or not. Secondly I can buy Mona Lisa towels, curtains, place-mats, tablecloths and reprints in a copyright-fearing western nation because you are permitted to replicate the image as it's out of copyright.

      Now if, I say if a museu

  • Inaccurate heading (Score:4, Informative)

    by BigBadBus (653823) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:40AM (#30829446) Homepage
    The heading of this news story makes it sound as if the Jack Benny episodes were about to be disposed of, whereas this is not the case. They are being preserved and stored, albeit not "preserved" in a digital sense. The comments made by Film Preservationist [tvweek.com] are an important commentary on this case. As for other TV luminaries being unable to view their own creations, there are precedents on this side of the pond. Peter Cook, I read, wanted to see some of his earlier BBC series but wasn't allowed. Later he found out they had been wiped, and I get the feeling that this was after his request as he offered to pay for copies. The same applies to another celebrity (Sandy Shaw?) who wanted copies of her shows, which were wiped pretty damn quick after her request. I've been following the hunt for missing TV for some time, and a write-up is here [paullee.com].
  • Devil's Advocate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Narcogen (666692) <narcogen@NOspam.narcogen.com> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @07:46AM (#30830390) Homepage

    Let's play devil's advocate for a second.

    These materials are in the public domain. This means that CBS, who owns the physical media on which these performances are recorded, would owe no royalties or other payments to any other rightsholders should it choose to air them or sell them or monetize them in any other way.

    The fanclub wants them preserved (which in this case means copied) and is willing to pay for this, thereby turning what is a potentially valuable asset with no liabilities attached into a worthless commodity.

    Jack Benny's estate supports the fan club's desire to copy... I mean, preserve the content... however the basis of the request to do so is that the material is in the public domain, so the estate has no more right than anyone else to determine what should happen to it, which leaves only CBS, which owns and possesses the physical media.

    This is being called destruction, since presumably CBS has no actual plans to do anything with this footage: if it did, presumably it would have done before now. So if they do not choose to allow copying... I mean, preservation, and something were to happen to the originals in their possession, it would be lost.

    This is admittedly a shame, and is a fault of how such things have been handled up to now. It certainly would be nice if CBS, and other holders of such materials, had a friendly policy of allowing such materials to be disseminated once they enter the public domain.

    However, no one should be surprised when this doesn't happen. From now on, content creators need to be careful about what arrangements they enter into with publishers and distributors, and arrange for physical copies to be archived somewhere, undistributed, ready for preservation when rights expire and materials enter the public domain (assuming this ever happens again in our lifetimes).

This place just isn't big enough for all of us. We've got to find a way off this planet.

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