How do a few episodes of a given TV show become public domain while the rest is not?

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Michael Rogers, May 14, 2006.

  1. Michael Rogers

    Michael Rogers Supporting Actor

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    I mean the upteen public domain releases of the same old Andy Griffith and Dick Van Dyke episodes while only licenced releases can do the whole series.

    How can some episodes fall out of copyright and others do not?
     
  2. Bob Hug

    Bob Hug Screenwriter

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    It all has to do with copyrights or, more specifically, lack thereof. In most instances, it's a case where after the initial copyright period ends, the copyright owner must renew the copyright but fails to do so. Once that happens, the copyright lapses and the episode(s) falls into the public domain. In other instances, the copyright was never secured initially as was the case for many live shows in the early days of television. But the bottom line is that once an episode is no longer under copyright, anyone who can secure a print may legally release it. Note that in the case of The Andy Griffith Show and some others like Bonanza and The Beverly Hillbillies, the original theme music is still under copyright and that's why you'll often hear the original music replaced.

    It's also important to recognize that the vast majority of the public domain releases use syndication prints rather than original film elements so, in most instances, the quality of the official studio releases are much better than the public domain releases. Certainly, both Andy Griffith and Dick Van Dyke look better on their official releases from Paramount and Image, respectively, than they do on the various PD releases. Where public domain releases make more sense, IMHO, are those instances where either an entire series or PD episodes from a series would never stand a snowball's chance in hell of receiving an official studio release. For example, the old Western "Stories of the Century" from the mid-1950s only had 39 episodes and is largely forgotten, but has received new life through PD releases from both St. Clair Entertainment Group and Platinum Disc Corporation. Same for the entertaining 1954-55 series, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" from Mill Creek Entertainment. And it pains me, but the only way you can see "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet" is through PD releases. It simply amazes me that this long running family comedy (1952-1966) has never received an official DVD release but, thanks to the PD companies, at least a few episodes are available (though often missing Rick Nelson's musical performances).
     
  3. Michael Alden

    Michael Alden Supporting Actor

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    Which thanks to the PD releases, we never will see an official release. They have pretty much destroyed the market by flooding it with garbage. And Joe Moron out there (the type of idiot who wouldn't know good quality if it smacked him in the head) won't pluck down real money for a decent set when he can get a 4th generation VHS to DVD copy for a dollar at Crapmart. Sad but true. I've spoken with the company that wanted to put it out and this is the reason.
     
  4. Bob Hug

    Bob Hug Screenwriter

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    Despite PD releases of "Ozzie & Harriet," I'm not quite so sure that a company couldn't successfully sell sets of this series. The examples of "Andy Griffith" and "Dick Van Dyke" are good ones in that the PD sets were around for a while before the official releases were brought to market. And MPI released sets of "The Beverly Hillbillies" episodes authorized by the estate of Paul Henning that are in the PD, the difference being better video quality and original music. I wonder how many of the O&H episodes are really in the public domain? Is it a small minority of episodes or is it the bulk of the series? If it's a comparatively small number of episodes like "Dick Van Dyke" or "Andy Griffith," then, IMHO, someone's missing the boat by not releasing this. On the other hand, if the bulk of the series is in the PD then, no, it would probably not make sense to give it an official release. Capitol Records did release a DVD with a number of Rick Nelson's music only performances from the show not so long ago.

    http://www.rickynelson.com/indexold.html
     
  5. Carlos Garcia

    Carlos Garcia Screenwriter

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    One of the greatest police shows ever, the original "Dragnet" from the 50s is nowhere to be found, if not for scattered PD DVDs. This is a shame, because in many respects, the original version was better than the officially released 60s version was. As it looks now, however, the only way to enjoy the 50s version is to find whatever episodes you can on PD releases. Crappy as the quality may look, it's the only way to see some of these classic shows.
     
  6. Bob Hug

    Bob Hug Screenwriter

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    Carlos, in the case of Dragnet, Universal really blew it big time when they released "Dragnet 1967." After putting 14 episodes on the first disc of the set, they then put the remaining 3 episodes on side 1 of disc 2 and left side 2 completely BLANK! They could have use this space to include one of the Dragnet movies or, better yet, include some bonus episodes of the original series from the Fifities (preferably those not in the PD). It would have been an easy way to "test the waters" and create some buzz on the Fifties series for a potential DVD release . . . a real "no brainer." Unfortunately, "Dragnet 1967" was one of Universal's problem plagued releases from last year and (bad) word of mouth on this set makes it difficult for Universal to release "1968," etc. let alone the original (and, IMHO, superior) series. So, yes, you're correct, unless Universal decides to release the original series (or license it to an independent), we're stuck with the lower grade PD releases for the foreseeable future.
     
  7. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    If there's a company that could put out Ozzie & Harriet but won't cause they assume pd releases have killed they market I think they're mistaken. I'd certainly buy it, and I think many others would. I gladly paid for the Dick Van Dyke show, and would pay similar for O&H. Of course, if they charge $100 a season it's not going to sell, but that couldn't be blamed on pd releases of some of the shows.
     
  8. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    I really scratch my head when I hear that PD kills a release. All a studio really needs to do is provide added value, like a great transfer and extras. That would give the consumer a reason to buy it, particularly since the companies that release the PD stuff tend to have low production values.

    Jason
     
  9. Jeff'Reys

    Jeff'Reys Auditioning

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    Then, maybe there's a lesson to be taken. Imagine Joe Moron is standing in Target and has to choose whether to buy the fancy studio release with so many bells and whistles that the price of a DVD season forces him to choose what has greater value in life. Whether to put braces on his kids teeth or buy all 32 episodes of season 1 of TDVDS complete with print restoration, added commentary, stills of the original script, and whatever else the studio adds on raising the price. If Joe Moron feels a PD release with its low image quality is good enough for him, why do the studios go through all the effort of adding extras and bonus' that up the retail price, when they can get away with simply transferring the video to DVD and be done with it all? If the added cost of adding all those extra features doesn't translate to the studio breaking even in DVD sales, wouldn't it be a better idea to just release the original seasons episodes at lower cost which will spur on sales?

    Extras and bonus features are nice, but when all is said and done, I'm buying a DVD for the actual content of the said series and the extras are just gravy. (Image restoration and logo burn-in free, please).
     
  10. Jeff#

    Jeff# Screenwriter

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    To add to what Jeff said, The X-Files is the ultimate example of a series that was released in its entirety with tons of extras at too expensive a retail price ($100 a season) a few years ago. The 2006 re-releases are in smaller sized boxes at half-price to sell, but still have just a handful of the same special features -- most of which are on the 6th season set.

    If the studios want to sell more product, they should follow 20 Century Fox's example. [​IMG][​IMG]
     
  11. Michael Alden

    Michael Alden Supporting Actor

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    There's a big difference in terms of marketability and profile between O&H and DVD and Andy Griffith. AG and DVD have never been off the air, running for 40 years on off-network syndication and cable networks like Nick at Nite, TV Land and TBS. O&H on the other hand has never had a good syndication. It first went into syndication in the mid-70s and sold poorly. The only cable networks to run it were TBS for a short time in the very early 80s and Disney for awhile in the mid-80s. In New York, where I live, for instance, we have never had the opportunity to see the show since it's original network run. It was never bought by a local station and the cable runs were before we had cable here. That, plus an unwieldly amount of episodes (435, a sitcom record), make it a tough sell. As for the copyright issues, which Disney tried to fight, the show was never registered so it is completely PD, save for the music or the versions Disney ran with their opens on them. Funny how Ozzie was supposed to be a shrewd businessman but he really dropped the ball with this.
     
  12. Bob Hug

    Bob Hug Screenwriter

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    That's incredibly disappointing to hear that the entire series is public domain; I had no idea. That would pretty much dash any hopes for an official release of the show.

    With respect to the spotty syndication of "Ozzie & Harriet," you're right, I cannot recall seeing the show hardly at all since it ended its original network run. And that's the reason that I really would have liked to see an official release of this show on DVD. For me, it's a case of "absence makes the heart grow fonder . . . "
     
  13. Jeff#

    Jeff# Screenwriter

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    It has nothing to do with the large number of episodes.

    The reason that Ozzie & Harriet doesn't sell well in syndication (and beyond) is because it's a little too nice. Ozzie Nelson is so likeable in his TV show that it's unbearable, because you know he probably wasn't that way in real life....and he was supposed to be playing himself! At least Jack Benny was able to get laughs on radio & TV for for 4 decades because he portrayed himself as the opposite of the way he really was. And what Jack did for charity (playing his violin beautifully in real life) knew it. In real life Ozzie Nelson was a bandleader and his wife was a singer. On the show they do nothing. Boring! :O

    The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet was a bland family sitcom recreation and contained no insult and inept character humor that fueled shows like The Jack Benny Program and The Life of Riley. It didn't have the broad humor and con-man antics of The Phil Silvers Show (which ended after only 4 years because Phil was exhausted from doing the show). Now Bilko is on DVD, and wow -- those 18 episodes selected for the 50th anniversary edition are great picks, and not just for the guest stars! [​IMG]

    The only thing that Ozzie & Harriet had going for it was Rick Nelson becoming a rock star, and getting to perform his songs as a teen and an adult in the later years of the show. If you want to see the elder Nelsons in something amusing, watch them in their Rod Serling's Night Gallery episode from 1972. [​IMG]
     
  14. David Rain

    David Rain Screenwriter

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    Among those other fine shows that have been appearing on PD I'll add The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show to that list. I believe most, if not all, of the original eps still exist but have not been seen regularly (outside of PBS) since the early 80's on cable channels like the now-defunct CBN, which also carried a treasure trove of other classic shows.

    At some point the studios will have released most of the more obvious series to DVD and at that point perhaps they will consider going back further and putting out these older shows properly.
     
  15. Tory

    Tory -The Snappy Sneezer- -Red Huck-

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    When I first got Direct TV, I think 2 years ago(I no longer have it) TV Land aired Ozzie & Harriet as well as The Burns & Allen Show early Sunday mornings. I think they aired some other older series like Dennis the Menace and possibly Hazel but I rarely had the opportunity to view these and after a few weeks they stopped and I quickly saw a handful of stations I was loving fall apart. Having been through this in the late 70's / early 80's as a toddler but with my local stations, I eventually dropped the service. This was during the same amount of short time that Perfect Strangers and Head of the Class were on Nick at Nite. At least a year before G4 destroyed Tech TV.

    I would buy Burns & Allen, I hope someone like MPI, S'more or Shout Factory will get to releasing these in quality sets.

    As to Phil Silvers Sgt. Bilko, I preordered it thinking it would be more whole and I wish it had been that way. Although I enjoyed almost all of the episodes, I think it would have been more entertaining in complete series chronological order so I could see the comedy, humor, characters, inside jokes and relationships grow and develop in s proper manner. Silvers said something in an interview on the set that alluded to a mystery as to why the series was cancelled at the top of its run.

    Is the series The Ruggles PD? If not who owns it? Is it available on DVD anywhere?
     
  16. Bob Hug

    Bob Hug Screenwriter

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    I can't say for certain whether it is in the PD, but I suspect that it is. I saw a single episode of "The Ruggles" on some compilation of Christmas themed episodes that were supposedly in the PD, but I can't recall who put the set out. I believe this may have been a live show, so we're probably talking kinescope quality at best for whatever episodes that may have been saved. Sorry, my memory is really hazy on this one.
     
  17. RoyM

    RoyM Stunt Coordinator

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    Sad to say, but your best hope for any of these older B&W shows that have fallen more or less into obscurity (in contemporary terms) to be released at all is by either PD specialist budget labels, or pray that one of the boutique labels sees some profitability in them and licenses them.

    I can virtually guarantee that no major studio is going to bother with releasing older TV shows any more outside of the absolutely most popular few we already have (Honeymooners, Lucy, Andy Griffith). These days, the big studios are clearly re-orienting their TV-on-DVD production towards the more dependable profit margins of contemporary shows. They don't seem to want to even take a chance anymore on older product - heck, they are even bailing out on producing and supporting show from the 1970's to as recently as the 1990's.

    It's too bad, because I think if the studios had a little more imagination with producing and marketing some of these older shows, they could be profit centers for them. They will obviously never move the sheer number of units that season sets of "Friends" do, but if they made them available with no frills and on a direct marketing basis, I think they could easily make good money off the older shows sitting in their vaults.
     
  18. Michael Rogers

    Michael Rogers Supporting Actor

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    PAX network, now called Independant TV shows a number of public domain movies and TV shows in time slots marked "Paid Programming" and "Knife show" (?) on my online cable guide.

    The public domain TV offerings are usually include "Ozzie and Harriet", "I Married Joan" "Beverly Hillbillies" and others.
     
  19. Tory

    Tory -The Snappy Sneezer- -Red Huck-

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    Add The Loretta Young Show and My Little Margie to that list and a few pd Looney Tunes and Three Stooges shorts and one Edgar Kennedy to that list. The problem with the presentation of these is they, at least on my local Christian Station, interrupt way to frequently with commercials and managed to extend the run time of one Daffy Duck cartoon to 45 minutes while cutting off the end. This type of presentation does nothing to endear these properties to viewers.
     
  20. Michael Alden

    Michael Alden Supporting Actor

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    Well, there's the problem. Not only don't these people have any imagination or marketing skills but 99.9% of the people working at these studios have little or no knowledge of their product. It's not like television historians or experts with encyclopedic knowledge are getting hired at these places. I've found it to be just the opposite with most of the people working at these places not even big watchers of TV. So for someone at one of these studios to greenlight a release of some great obscure 30 or 40 year old show would be unrealistic since it's unlikely they would even know what any of these shows were.
     

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