Monday, July 18, 2011

Intellectual Property vs. Butchery

I tried to watch Alien on my cable channel’s Fright Festival.  What I saw was not Alien, but rather a derivative work: an original compilation by a nameless marketing director.  Short clips from Alien interspersed with thirty percent randomly selected advertising, periodic banners telling me that watching Alien now is not as important as the fact that Swamp Thing is coming up next, and a ubiquitous television channel logo. 

If I were Ridley Scott I would be mightily offended.  At no time did my vision for Alien include the juxtaposition of H. R. Giger art and "Girls Gone Wild". 

Advertising this show as Alien is false on two counts.  First, it is not just Ridley Scott’s Alien, as we are led to expect.  Second, implying it to be Ridley Scott’s deprives the cable channel's marketing director of his rights of authorship for the "original compilation work". 

In fact, if I had the stature of Ridley Scott, I might be tempted to enforce draconian licensing requirements on my works.  No butchery.  No editing.  No overlays.  No advertising.  No time compression.  And, in this age of high-definition, No Pan-and-Scan.  Basically, if you want my work, you will take the whole thing.  My way. 

Cable television needs the content creators a lot more than the content creators need cable television.  Direct sales and the Internet are much more lucrative than residuals for late-night TV.

Interestingly, Georgia O’Keeffe placed unique restrictions in the licensing for her wonderful paintings. She required that all reproductions be smaller than the originals.

This is a brilliantly simple use of the current copyright laws to protect the brand and preserve the wonder of the originals, while also allowing a wider audience to be exposed to her work.

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