Video dubbing by schools (was: Peter Kubelka VHS)

From: Fred Camper (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Feb 06 2006 - 14:11:05 PST

Steve Polta wrote:

> is this just some
> sub-cultural "urban myth"?

It is absolutely not an urban myth. I know of specific cases. I of
course would not want to view the "smoking guns" (video dupes) myself,
but I know people who have. One reason for not naming the schools I know
of is is that I think there are many more than the few I know and
wouldn't want to single them out publicly. In one case, a film professor
at a major university that does this told me that the university's
lawyers' opinion is that doing this for "study purposes" is not a
copyright violation. They say there are making only a single study copy
is made for student use. There are a couple of problems with this,
however. One is that even though this school does continue to rent
prints, these study only copies have been known to inadvertently make it
into classroom screenings, which should not be a big surprise, no system
being perfect. Another is that unauthorized dupes are sometimes made for
personal use by grad students at others, and it wouldn't surprise me if
such dupes, even worse than the VHS originals, sometimes make it into
classroom screenings when said student gets his or her first teaching
job at Podunk State which of course has no rental budget and no working
film projectors either. But what galls me the most about this practice
is that no attempt is made to exclude from video dubbing the films of
those filmmakers who have lost income by never authorizing the transfer
of their films to video for aesthetic reasons, because as the makers
they feel their films should simply not be seen on video.

Not being a lawyer, I don't have a strong opinion about the legality of
this practice. It certainly "feels" to me like it should be illegal, but
I know that in some cases courts have been pretty lenient about colleges
and universities making single copies of printed matter for study
purposes. My guess is that there has not been a case on the specific
question of study copies of films, so that the law about this isn't
settled. Anyone who knows more, please let us know.

But distributors ought to have another case, if by renting a film the
renter is agreeing to a "contract" to protect the print and allow no
copying of it to video. (Please don't write these to prohibit the making
of stills though -- I sometimes need to make a still or two for
publication, and a still does seem to me that it ought to be "fair
use.") Is there such a contract in place already? If not, it might be
worth thinking about, though to some extent this would be a bit like
closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Fred Camper
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy....

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.