08 February 2007

Seeing Things from a Different Perspective

I first saw Kurosawa's Rashomon about 25 years ago. That whole world of black-and-white Japanese films produced in the 50s, 60s and 70s really made a huge impact on me at the time. They certainly changed the way I viewed cinema, and as a knock-on effect the way I viewed the world (well, bits of it, at least). So discovering that Rashomon is not only available as a download, but is free and in the public domain, got me thinking.

I presume this gift is a result of copyrights expiring - it was released in 1950 (that's one benefit of watching the classics). Which maybe means that plenty of other great films could be made available in this way (Mizoguchi, please, please, please). But imagine if even more recent films were available - think of the impact this would have people's understanding of the medium, and their view of it.

It's practically impossible to see these works nowadays, and pretty difficult even to buy them (Mizoguchi in particular seems badly served). Presumably this is because there's not much demand for such works. Which means, of course, that the copyright owners, whoever they are, would lose practically nothing if they released them now. Indeed, if they released them in a format suitable for downloading and viewing on PCs - that is, not super-high quality - they would probably start selling high-quality DVDs rather well.

Which rather puts copyright terms, to say nothing of extending them, in a different perspective. (Via Open the Future.)

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