Amos N' Andy: Who owns them?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Patrick McCart, Jan 31, 2003.

  1. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I noticed the thread got closed, but I wanted to bring this up...

    While they're definately politically incorrect, they're facinating. Instead of being shielded from this "trash," why not learn a little bit of TV's past?

    Who owns the classic TV series or are they in the public domain?
     
  2. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    Well, if I recall correctly the show aired on CBS, but I know for a fact it was produced by Hal Roach Studios.
     
  3. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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  4. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    Patrick McCart wrote:

     
  5. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    The entire series was being sold on VHS a few years back through Collector's Choice Music, a very reputable company. They dropped it from their catalog at some point. Also, a tape set was available from one Bridgestone Multimedia a few years back. I got it from Suncoast.
     
  6. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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    Why was the thread closed?!?! CBS let the copyright lapse on these a few years ago. They are not bootlegs. CBS was the original copyright holder, not Hal Roach.

    Jeff
     
  7. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    How times have changed. Amos and Andy was nominated for an Emmy in 1953 as "best sitcom".
     
  8. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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  9. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Jeff, are you certain that this series is now in the public domain? If so, I will (reluctlantly) open the earlier thread. That is, if the eBay-listed discs are legitimate, then there's no problem. Thanks.
     
  10. Jeff Koch

    Jeff Koch Stunt Coordinator

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    SILVERMAN VS. CBS, INC.
    (I had problems posting the url so I had to cut and paste the case).



    "Silverman
    v.
    CBS Inc.
    870 F.2d 40
    United States Court of Appeals,
    Second Circuit
    Feb. 6, 1989
    *
    JON O. NEWMAN, Circuit Judge:
    This appeal presents somewhat novel issues of both copyright and trademark law arising from the efforts of appellant Stephen M. Silverman to develop a musical based on the "Amos 'n' Andy" characters . . . .* The attempt to transport Amos, Andy, Kingfish, Algonquin J. Calhoun, and all the others from the well-known radio and television shows of earlier decades to Broadway (possibly in a cab of the Fresh Air Taxi Co.) has thus far been stymied by the assertion of copyright and trademark infringement claims by appellee CBS Inc. Silverman appeals from a judgment of the District Court for the Southern District of New York (Gerard L. Goettel, Judge) awarding CBS damages, declaratory relief, and an injunction. Because some "Amos 'n' Andy" materials are in the public domain while others remain subject to CBS copyrights, and because CBS has elected not to make commercial use of its "Amos 'n' Andy" radio and television programs, nor create new ones, since 1966, the issues primarily raised on this appeal are the extent of copyright protection available to CBS with respect to the "Amos 'n' Andy" characters and whether CBS has abandoned through non-use whatever trademarks it might have. We conclude that to a limited extent copyright infringement has occurred, that the declaratory and injunctive relief awarded CBS should be modified to avoid extension of copyright protection to public domain materials, that Silverman is entitled to limited declaratory relief, and that CBS's trademarks, if valid, have been abandoned.
    Facts
    The "Amos 'n' Andy" characters were created in 1928 by Freeman F. Gosden and Charles J. Correll, who wrote and produced for radio broadcasting "The Amos 'n' Andy Show." The show became one of the country's most popular radio programs. The characters in the Amos 'n' Andy programs were Black. Gosden and Correll, who were White, portrayed Amos and Andy on radio. The authors appeared in blackface in publicity photos. Black actors played the parts in the subsequent television programs.
    Gosden and Correll assigned all of their rights in the "Amos 'n' Andy Show" scripts and radio programs to CBS Inc. in 1948. Gosden and Correll continued to create new "Amos 'n' Andy" scripts, which formed the basis for CBS radio programs. The radio programs continued until 1955. Beginning in 1951 CBS also broadcast an "Amos 'n' Andy" television series. The television series was aired on CBS affiliate stations until 1953 and continued in reruns and non- network syndication until 1966. CBS has not aired or licensed for airing any of the radio or television programs since 1966.
    In 1981, Silverman began writing a script for a Broadway musical based on the "Amos 'n' Andy" characters. The title of this work was originally "Amos 'n' Andy Go To The Movies." A revision was titled "Amos 'n' Andy In Hollywood," and a more extensive revision was titled "Fresh Air Taxi." Silverman sought a license to use the "Amos 'n' Andy" characters, but CBS refused.
    Silverman filed this lawsuit seeking a declaration that the "Amos 'n' Andy" radio programs broadcast from March 1928 through March 1948 (the "pre-1948 radio programs") are in the public domain and that he is therefore free to make use of the content of the programs, including the characters, character names, and plots. He also sought a declaration that CBS has no rights in these programs under any body of law, including statutory and common law copyright law and trademark law. CBS asserted five counterclaims: (1) that Silverman's scripts infringed CBS's copyrights in the scripts for three post-1948 radio programs; (2) that the Silverman scripts violated section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. ' 1125(a) (1982), by infringing various CBS trademarks . . .; (3) that the infringement of CBS's trademarks also violated CBS's rights under state unfair competition and anti-dilution law; (4) that Silverman had misappropriated CBS's goodwill associated with the "Amos 'n' Andy" programs and trademarks; and (5) that Silverman had obtained improper copyright registration of his first movie script, claiming it to be an original work, whereas it used protected material from scripts in which CBS held copyrights.
    District Court Decisions
    . . .
    With respect to the pre-1948 radio programs, Judge Goettel ruled that the scripts for these programs were in the public domain because the copyrights in these scripts, originally obtained by Gosden and Correll, had not been renewed.* . . .
    Turning next to the post-1948 radio programs, Judge Goettel ruled that CBS had common law copyrights in the scripts for these programs, which became statutory copyrights pursuant to the 1976 Act when CBS registered these scripts with the Copyright Office in early 1985. . . . The District Judge then found that Silverman had had access to the scripts and had listened to the broadcasts, that the first script for his musical indisputably contained substantial portions of dialogue from at least one of the post-1948 radio scripts, and that Silverman was therefore liable for copyright infringement . . . . ** . . .* Summary judgment was granted to CBS on its first and fifth counterclaims.
    Turning next to the television programs, the District Judge noted that CBS had obtained copyright registrations and renewals for the televised programs (which were fixed in the tangible medium of film or videotape).* . . .
    Then, facing the issue of the scope of copyright protection for the television programs, Judge Goettel focused on the graphic representation of the "Amos 'n' Andy" characters in the telecasts. Mindful that the pre-1948 radio scripts were in the public domain, he framed the key question to be "are characters that are in the public domain in a literary work protectable by copyright in an audiovisual presentation?" . . .* The District Judge answered "yes" and ruled that "duplication of the characters as they appeared on television would infringe CBS's copyrights."* . . .* Reaching the issue of infringement, Judge Goettel then ruled that substantial similarity could not be determined until the characters in Silverman's musical were seen on stage, and he therefore dismissed the counterclaim as unripe to the extent that it sought relief for infringement of the television programs. * . . .
    . . .
    Discussion
    . . .
    [The court held first that CBS had abandoned its Amos 'n Andy trademark.]
    2. Copyright Issues. As a result of our ruling on the trademark side of the case, it becomes more important than it was in the District Court to determine the extent to which CBS's copyrights prevent Silverman from proceeding with his musical. Judge Goettel . . . gave Silverman no declaration of any rights concerning the "Amos 'n' Andy" characters because of his ruling on the trademark side of the case. Our rejection of that ruling thus alters the context in which the copyright issues arise.
    . . .
    The fundamental copyright principle applicable to this case is that a copyright affords protection only for original works of authorship and, consequently, copyrights in derivative works secure protection only for the incremental additions of originality contributed by the authors of the derivative works. See 1 Nimmer on Copyright '' 2.01, 3.04 (1988). Thus, the CBS copyrights in the post-1948 radio scripts programs, and whatever rights it may have in the television scripts and programs (assuming for the moment that the programs have not been published without copyright notice) provide protection only for the increments of expression beyond what is contained in the pre-1948 radio scripts, which are in the public domain. This principle is fully applicable to works that provide further delineation of characters already sufficiently delineated to warrant copyright protection.* . . .
    This basic principle has some favorable consequences for both CBS and Silverman. For CBS, it means, as the District Court determined, that CBS is entitled to prevail on its claim that Silverman's script infringes the CBS copyright in at least one of the post-1948 radio scripts because significant dialogue appearing in that script (and not contained in the pre-1948 scripts) has been copied by Silverman in his script for his musical. For Silverman, the basic copyright principle means that he is entitled to use the public domain material from the pre-1948 scripts and may do so up to the point at which he copies original expression added to the pre-1948 radio scripts and protected by valid CBS copyrights.
    With respect to the "Amos 'n' Andy" characters, which are at the heart of this litigation, we have no doubt that they were sufficiently delineated in the pre-1948 radio scripts to have been placed in the public domain when the scripts entered the public domain.* . . .* What Silverman may not use, however, is any further delineation of the characters contained in the post-1948 radio scripts and the television scripts and programs, if it is ultimately determined that these last items remain protected by valid copyrights.
    Judge Goettel recognized the basic principles that apply to the copyright claims of both sides but in one respect misapplied them, according CBS too much protection in implementing his conclusion that "characters that are in the public domain in a literary work [are] protectable by copyright in an audiovisual work."* . . . * Though he correctly observed that "[t]he visual representation of these characters, recorded on film, is the expression of an idea that goes beyond the word portraits in the public domain scripts," he erred in concluding that "duplication of the characters as they appeared on television would infringe CBS's copyrights."* . . .* Since only the increments of expression added by the films are protectable, Silverman would infringe only if he copies these protectable increments. It is, of course, likely that the visual portrayal of the characters added something beyond the delineation contained in the public domain radio scripts, but surely not every visual aspect is protected. For example, the fact that the characters are visibly Black does not bar Silverman from placing Black "Amos 'n' Andy" characters in his musical, since the race of the characters was a feature fully delineated in the public domain scripts. Similarly, any other physical features adequately described in the pre-1948 radio scripts may be copied even though those characteristics are visually apparent in the television films or tapes.
    3. Relief. There remains the determination of appropriate relief. Since Silverman does not challenge the award of damages for infringement of the post- 1948 radio scripts, those damages and the related attorney's fees in the total amount of $19,403.07 are affirmed.
    The situation concerning non-monetary relief is somewhat more complicated.* . . .
    What the injunction should prohibit is copying any of the protectable elements of the works in which CBS holds valid copyrights. Those works include the post-1948 radio scripts, the television scripts, and possibly the television programs . . . .* The protectable elements of these copyrighted materials are those elements that constitute increments of expression additional to what is contained in the pre- 1948 radio scripts and that satisfy the minimal copyright requirement of originality. Framing an injunction in terms of a legal conclusion concerning protectable increments of expression is not entirely satisfactory, but the alternative of trying to identify at this stage every protectable element of the copyrighted materials is even less satisfactory. Precise determination of such elements will have to await the situation, should it ever arise, where Silverman prepares a script that arguably infringes a protectable element of these materials and CBS asserts a claim of infringement.* . . .
    We also defer precision in framing relief on Silverman's claim for a declaratory judgment. Silverman should now receive a declaration that he is entitled to use all aspects of the "Amos 'n' Andy" materials, including names, stories, and characters, to the extent that such elements of expression are contained (or, in the case of characters, to the extent delineated) in the pre-1948 radio scripts, which are in the public domain. As with the injunction, it is not satisfactory to leave the scope of this declaration imprecise, but it would be less satisfactory to attempt to identify all the unprotected elements that Silverman is free to use.
    On balance, we think we have adjudicated the legal rights of Silverman and CBS sufficiently to minimize the likelihood of further controversy. Though future disputes might arise, Silverman will now have ample latitude to proceed with his musical, though observing the copyrights that CBS indisputably holds in the post-1948 radio scripts, and he may find it unnecessary to test the full extent of CBS's rights in other materials. With this opinion at hand, we will expect the parties to cooperate in either framing an agreed upon form of judgment for submission to the District Court on remand, or at least narrowing any disputes they may have and submitting variations of language only as to such disputes. In the event of a subsequent appeal from the entry of judgment upon remand, this panel will retain jurisdiction."



    Jeff
     
  11. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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    Jeff,

    Wow, thanks for posting that. It's quite interesting. Although, since 1989 I believe more has happened in regards to the CBS Television show. I remember reading in one of the video trades (Video Business magazine, I think) sometime in the mid-90's that CBS had surrendered any claim to Amos N Andy and that one or two companies was releasing them on VHS. I've seen numerous VHS tapes in video stores over the past several years and have even seen one set of them on DVD.

     
  12. alan halvorson

    alan halvorson Cinematographer

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    Great! I just might invest in these, if I find out if the dvds are of a reasonable quality. Anyone know how many episodes there actually were? I see claims for 78, 74 and 72. I have no idea what is right.
     
  13. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    If it would be any help to you guys, I could simply merge the posts from the earlier thread to this one (but there were only two posts involved). So if you'd like them included here, please advise.
     
  14. BarryM

    BarryM Stunt Coordinator

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    OK....my thread was closed, and I would now like pose my original question again.

    There are two collections of Amos & Andy DVD's being sold on eBay....one is the 74 episodes for $289.00 (very high) and the other claims to include all TV episodes and tons of the radio broadcast.

    Has anyone gon ahead and purchased these? Can anybody speak to the quality? If they're better than the VHS issues, I will gladly purchase them, because despite all the politically correct nonsense these days, THIS TV SERIES WAS VERY FUNNY...and NO more 'offensive' than "Sanford And Son".

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanx a lot.
     
  15. Marvin

    Marvin Screenwriter

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  16. Larry Bevil

    Larry Bevil Second Unit

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    I purchased a set of two videos from http://www.1dvdclassics.com/ In all honesty, I can't recommend this set. I placed one of the dvd's in my DVDRom and it started to play and I noticed the quality is worse than the tapes I have. Then, my CDRom started making all kinds of noise. So, I removed it from the drive. I haven't tried the second dvd as yet. It would be nice if some studio could resurrect these video's and enhance them. The quality of the copies available, or that were available, is horrible.
     
  17. alan halvorson

    alan halvorson Cinematographer

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    Looks like, Larry, that the ones you bought are different from those in the 18 disc set being sold on Ebay. I would dearly like to hear from someone who has viewed these - I want the set in the worst way but not if they're of the poor quality you've discovered.
     
  18. BarryM

    BarryM Stunt Coordinator

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    I too would love to buy the $289.00 set, but even if they were great quality, that's just too much. Almost as extensive as the Twilight Zone boxes; but with those, you KNOW the quality is first-rate.

    What to do...what to do...
     
  19. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    On a related topic, at Overstock.com you can get a 3-disc CD set of 16 original radio broadcasts of A&A for only $3.99.

    Click on the picture:

    [​IMG]
     
  20. BarryM

    BarryM Stunt Coordinator

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    I ewmailed the guy selling the "74" original TV episodes on 18 DVDs for $289.00 and asked him to tel me about the quality, etc.

    Here's his reply:
    "Hello [​IMG] Good question. Most sellers on the internet burn home-made 155 line resolution video cd's from VHS and call them DVD. The term "DVD" is used very loosely on the internet and you will actually get better quality from a good set of VHS tapes. As a long time collector, I can assure you that the set I offer is real DVD and they are fantistic. A little history about this set: Collectors from across the U.S. came together on this project and loaned prints to be examined to be sure the best possible prints were used. Next the film was authored by a major studio in california then glass plates were made and the DVD's were stamped (replicated). Of course the quality varies between episodes but they are so much better than anything else you hav ever seen, there is no comparison. These are true 480 line resolution DVD on DVD5 which is the industry standard and will play on all DVD players. This set is also in the correct chronalogical order as they originally appeared on TV and packaged as the most beautiful "box set" you have probably ever seen. Thanks[​IMG] Phillips"

    He did not speak to about why the set is so expensive.

    Hope this helps...or does it??
     

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