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Could the original, unaltered STAR WARS be on its way to Blu-ray?

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Ronald Epstein, Jul 21, 2013.

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  1. Rolando

    Rolando Screenwriter

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    Oh boy!
    I was under the impression it was fair play. That as long as they did not sell it, as l Ng Sam they were not making money from it, as long as I did not pay for it and as long as I owned the original HD BD Release then it was not illegal.

    Don’t know how I missed that. Sorry.
     
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  2. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    If it ever went to court, I imagine that's what Harmy's lawyers would say. And, for what it's worth, I don't think downloading a copy of this version is immoral, especially if you've purchased these movies many times before. Maybe a subtle distinction, but I didn't mean to make it sound like I was beating up on your question.

    On a more technical/legal level, there are some obstacles the Harmy version just can't overcome:

    -It's illegal to break the copy protection on a disc, even if you purchase it. Making backup copies is technically illegal. Ripping your discs to a homemade HTPC setup is illegal. Obviously the FBI isn't going after people for making their own HTPC setups or making backup copies of their own discs. But it's technically not allowed. The Harmy version does use footage from the Blu-rays, and there's no legal mechanism that would have allowed for Harmy to rip the discs. In general, the stance people have taken on ripping discs seems to have softened over time. Years ago, on HTF, we weren't even allowed to discuss Home Theater PCs publicly on the forum because ripping a disc to one is technically illegal. I don't know what the official HTF rulebook says these days, but informally at least, the HTF policy seems to have been relaxed and it now is generally considered okay to discuss making a copy of your own material (for instance, for use in a HTPC) which is a change from previous years.

    -The Harmy version also uses some clips from 35mm prints in the hands of private collectors. Major studios do not sell 35mm prints, particularly of blockbusters like Star Wars. These are generally prints which were sent out to theaters during the original releases, which were not returned to the studio. So those prints are pretty much stolen property, even if the person in possession of them currently did nothing illegal to get them, and even if the studio had thrown them in the trash or forgotten to ask a theater to return one. It's also legally questionable to make a film transfer on a print you don't have the rights to - a reputable facility would not do it. Any time that I've ever had to have film transferred to tape or digital, I had to fill out paperwork where I stated that I was the copyright holder of the material being transferred, or an authorized agent of the copyright holder. Obviously, anyone with a stolen print of Star Wars isn't going to be able to answer that honestly.

    -The Harmy versions are distributed online through file sharing. File sharing in and of itself isn't illegal, but file sharing of copyright material is. Since Star Wars is copyrighted, it can't legally be shared online.

    -If there was even the slightest chance that all of this could be in the legal clear, it would have to be completely non-profit for it to work - money can't be changing hands. I don't know who this Harmy fellow is, and I generally take him and the collective of people who share this material at their word that they're not getting rich off of it. But it could be argued that they're still being compensated for making this. Harmy gets to make a name for himself and has become internet famous for doing this; that could be argued as profiting. People on fan edit sites solicit donations for acquiring 35mm prints, for computer processing power, for server space, for internet bandwidth - I have no idea how much they're taking in, but that could be seen as profiting from this.

    Do I think Disney/Lucasfilm/Fox are likely to go after this guy? No, he's probably fine. I think they're even less likely to go after individual viewers who download it. And I don't think a fan downloading this (especially a fan like me who has purchased these films on VHS at least three times, on DVD twice, and then again on Blu-ray) is doing something truly immoral -- this isn't the same as downloading a bootleg of The Last Jedi to avoid paying for a movie ticket. But at the same time, it's also never going to be completely legally "okay".
     
  3. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie

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    The Fair Use Doctrine is a widely misunderstood legal principle in copyright law, with a very simple premise. The idea is that person can modify or make a backup of the copy of copyrighted material they own, provided that the original material is left unmolested. A simple example would be someone who goes through a book, marking up passages and making notes in the margins; the original manuscript is unmolested, as are any materials produced by the publisher for the purpose of printing the book.

    It gets more complicated when we talk about audio/visual forms of media, like recorded music, films and TV, and video games. Because, as Josh described above, most of these materials are now preserved on WORM formats [write once, read many], they must be copied in order to make modifications. In the case of videogames, this is not always the case. The first well known incident of successfully opposing a copyright holder is the Game Genie case, wherein the courts concluded that the aforementioned device, which allowed players to input codes to modify gameplay, did not offend copyright rules because it adhered to the Fair Use Doctrine. This was true because the data on the cartridge retained its original form, and gameplay was only altered by the Game Genie; the original version of the game would still be playable if you took the Game Genie out of the chain.

    The interpretation used by Harmy et al of the Fair Use Doctrine is the one that got Clean Flicks shut down in the early part of this century, and is currently the source of woe for VidAngel. In both cases, the idea is that, so long as the person possessing the modified version of the copyrighted material also possesses an unmodified version, that person is complying with the Fair Use Doctrine in the sense that the modified version is a "backup", which it clearly is not for the reasons described by Josh. In the case of Clean Flicks, they rose to notoriety for editing films with "objectionable" material to make them "family-friendly". They started out by having people buy VHS tapes, send them to Clean Flicks and for a fee, Clean Flicks would provide them with a "family-friendly" version.

    A competitor, ClearPlay, started out by creating an STB that went between your VCR and your TV and would mute the soundtrack when coarse language came up, or blank the screen during scenes of excessive violence, gore or sexuality. In the DVD age, this was updated to an internet-capable DVD player that would download filters for each film and was customisable according to rating level. What's interesting is that VidAngel started out doing the former, and shifted to the latter with respect to streaming and rentals. The ClearPlay model was defensible because it was a direct descendant of the Game Genie strategy; the Clean Flicks model was not.

    Getting back to Star Wars, I remain optimistic that an unaltered version of the Original Trilogy may surface in either BD or UHD 4K. I am in possession of the despecialised versions, but only as a curiosity, since they are not perfect copies of the OT. I'm aware that they fall into a very dark gray area of copyright law, but IMHO, copyright law is in desperate need of an overhaul, as the current laws are draconian and creativity stifling. But for the current state of the law, Star Wars (1977) would lapse into the public domain in 10 years, which isn't a bad thing.
     
  4. BobO'Link

    BobO'Link Producer

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    ^Copyright on "Star Wars" (1977) will not expire until January 2073.

    https://copyright.cornell.edu/publicdomain

    Date of Publication - Conditions - Copyright term:
    1964 through 1977 - Published with notice - 95 years after publication date
     
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  5. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie

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    Apparently, you missed the "but for" at the beginning of my last sentence. Prior to the DMCA and other amendments to copyright law championed by the likes of the late Sonny Bono, 50 years was the general rule.
     
  6. BobO'Link

    BobO'Link Producer

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    Yep... totally... :)
     
  7. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Cinematographer
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    This situation is one of the things that just makes me shake my head. Fair Use says you can make a copy of something you own as long as you retain the original and don't distribute the copy. The DMCA makes it illegal to break copy protection. So, in essence, you have the right to legally make a copy except that in order to do so, you have to break the law. Catch 22. Studios advertise that you can own a digital copy of something, however you don't actually own the file and access can be revoked at any time.

    This is why there will always be piracy. I believe it was a wise space princess who once said, "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."
     
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  8. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie

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    You've got it! Digital Copy is not so much an actual copy as a "bundle of rights" which limit how you are allowed to use that copy. That's why the current UltraViolet/Movies Anywhere situation is so frustrating for anyone outside the US. We have UltraViolet "digital copies", but certain studios *cough* Paramount and WB *cough* have suddenly revoked our validly obtained rights because of the move to a different platform. Several of my most recent Paramount UV titles and random WB UV titles now show up in Flixster Video as "Playback Unavailable". Mildly frustrating, to say the least.
     
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  9. Rolando

    Rolando Screenwriter

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    Hey I noticed that message on some movies and assumed it was a temporary problem. Are you saying some movies have just simply been removed from my library? I can no longer watch that digital copy?
     
  10. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Cinematographer
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    I took a look at the Flixster Canadian TOS and it sounds like people may be out of luck with their content that has disappeared.


    Here are some pertinent excerpts:

    It's a pretty typical TOS which means it's extremely broad and seemingly contradictory in parts. It might be worth a try contacting them to see if you're able to download a copy of the files, but if the rights have been pulled entirely, they won't have a file you can download.

    This is why I still buy physical copies of the stuff I want to keep. Digital is just long-term renting.
     
  11. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie

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    Most of the "Playback Unavailable" titles are in-pack digital copies; however, there are a handful of WB titles that I got by being part of a WB survey group, some of which i have physically, and some of which I do not. C'est la vie.
     
  12. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    I know I'm preaching to the choir here, as we HTF folks love our movies and owning our media, but this is exactly why when IRL friends and acquaintances say "streaming/dig copy is the future" I always smile and shake my head. For those who really don't care about owning movies, streaming/dig copy will suffice. But for those of us who have true passions for the films we love, and want to be able to watch whatever film we want in our library, there is no replacement for owning the media.
     
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  13. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie

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    I really only have one use for Digital Copies: downloading to my tablet to watch on the plane when I go on vacation. I'd rather watch something in my collection than a pan-and-scan, edited-for-infants version of an in-flight movie.
     
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  14. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I like having the digital copies to travel with. I don't load them on an iPad or anything, but it's nice that I can go visit either of my parents for a holiday (about an hour from my house), or my mother-in-law (in Puerto Rico) and with a few button presses on their Rokus, I can access a great deal of my home collection. I never use it as much as I think I will, but it's a nice convenience.
     
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  15. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Lead Actor

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    I don't think we will ever see the original un-altered trilogy either on BD or streaming.
    It really bothers me that Disney doesn't seem to care that the bootleg versions are being sold at an alarmingly brisk pace on E-Bay.
     
  16. Worth

    Worth Producer

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    In this specific case, I'm not sure anything is being lost. Anyone who's getting the bootleg versions has probably already bought the films numerous times on numerous formats and would no doubt buy an official release, were one to ever appear.

    Honestly, I don't know why anyone would spend money buying these - they're really not very difficult to find for free on the internet.
     
  17. Worth

    Worth Producer

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    Speak of the devil...
    https://www.slashfilm.com/star-wars-4k-blu-ray-box-set/
     
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  18. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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  19. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Oh slashfilm...why do you continue to tease me?:rolling-smiley:
     
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  20. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    I mean it could be worse. The date of that article could have been 10 days ago...
     
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