Some good points, please see below ...

On 06/04/2018 13:27, David Cantrell wrote:
On Wed, Apr 04, 2018 at 11:58:44PM +0100, MacFH - C E Macfarlane wrote:

And that's not to mention the absurdity of not being allowed to download
a 40-50 year old B&W version of 'Pride & Prejudice', or the 50 year old
'Funny Girl' & 43 year old 'Funny Lady',  because of rights issues  -
how many extra DVD sales do the rights holders expect to get by
disallowing this?
The BBC has no choice but to respect the rights holders rights, and if
they didn't get online rights for the content then they *can't* put the
stuff online.
Obviously!

You could argue that they jolly well ought to get those
rights, but then you have three issues.

First, the owner of those rights can say "ooh, we never knew this was
worth anything to anybody, we demand one beeeelion spondulicks" and
refuse to see reason and accept that Grandpa's work is just not worth
much.
I suspect THAT is the major problem  -  as I indicated in my post, some rights holders have unrealistic expectations for works that are around half-a-century old or older.
Second, tracking down the current owner of the rights is Hard after that
long, given that companies have been liquidated, gone out of business,
been bought and sold, and that people have died and left their rights
(often not listed in detail) to heirs who will often have died
themselves (leaving even fewer details about the rights they inherited
from their parents).
For many things, that would be true, but for the sort of big Hollywood films that I mentioned, I doubt if there can be any doubt who the current rights holders are.  Apart from anything else, the original rights holders are usually in the credits, and thence would be comparatively easy to trace through to the present day, and, after all, the BBC must have obtained or be obtaining the media copy that they broadcast from somewhere of known provenance, presumably from the rights holders themselves, or someone acting on their behalf.
Third, the BBC doesn't have complete records of who owned the rights
half a century ago which makes the second problem even harder. Back then
no-one knew that anyone would care. And when they do have records
they've probably not been digitised so they don't know that they have
the records or where they are and certainly can't find them.
But, as above, they must be obtaining their copy from somewhere, presumably somewhere of acceptable provenance, because I doubt that they would broadcast anything of doubtful provenance, and certainly not anything as significant as a film.
That second one in particular is a major pain in the arse. I've been
trying off and on for several years to track down the current owners of
the copyright in a particular out of print book that I would like to
re-publish. And for a book with only two authors and one publisher it
should be easy compared to a TV programme with writers, actors,
directors, composers, ...

Yes, I am familiar with this problem, because I have a long-standing interest in music, particularly folk music, and many labels of as recently as the 1980s have gone bust, been bought out, merged, etc, making it very difficult to know who owns the copyright.  There is one particularly notorious folk music label, Celtic Music, owned by the late Dave Bulmer, which claims ownership to much of the best folk albums (of course, in those days, vinyl LPs) of the 1970s and 1980s, but has refused to reissue most of them on CD, to the ire of the many artists involved.  After Barbara Dickson's LP "From The Beggar's Banquet ...", which since *has* been rereleased on CD, his most famous casualty was probably Nic Jones, who in the late 80s when driving home from a gig had a serious car smash which prematurely ended his career, and therefore, in the absence of profit from ongoing work, he had particular need of his back catalogue to support him and his family, but never earned a penny from it once it reached the claimed ownership of DB.  I don't wish to drag the thread any more off topic by saying any more about this here, the more especially as too much already has been said about it in a vituperous online flame war, but I am very familiar with the sort of problems that you raise.

But there is also another aspect to it, the theft of copyright by well-known artists in the west from either historical writers of the past, or from disadvantaged artists in poorer societies.  Examples of the former are Bob Dylan, who, for example, rewrote the well-known traditional song "The Parting Glass" as "Restless Farewell", my printed copy of which claims "Words and music by Bob Dylan", even though the tune is the traditional one, the lyrics of the the first verse almost identical, and the general sentimental feel of the whole also identical.  He also used the tune of "Farewell to Tarwathie" as the tune of "Farewell Angelina", etc, etc  -  most people who know anything about both Dylan and traditional songs can give you at least half-a-dozen examples more or less without thought.  Another example is Richard Farina's claiming of copyright for "Scarlet Town", but most of the lyrics and the melody were about a century old at the time!

But in those and similar cases, the original artists were long dead, so it could be argued that no-one is suffering, although actually that's not true, because it takes the songs out of the general pool of material that we all should be able to perform without paying royalties, but certainly the most flagrant outrages are copyright theft from living artists, probably the worst case being the theft of Solomon Linda's copyright of "Mbube"/"The Lion Sleeps Tonight"/"Wimoweh", to use the three best known of its many titles. Rian Malan’s story for Rolling Stone Magazine recounts the racist and plagiaristic exploitation of it: http://www.3rdearmusic.com/forum/mbube2.html. If you are sufficiently interested to want to read that link, then you will see what I mean when I talk about rights holders' greed!  However, I should point out that, finally, there is better news: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5300359

Regards,
C E Macfarlane.





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