The sale of television shows on DVD has really taken off in the past few years. Interestingly, many being reproduced are shows that are in the public domain and are shows “on which not a penny of royalties is being paid to the creators or original distributors” (par. 2). Many of the shows in the public domain are classics “from the 1960s such as ‘Bonanza,’ ‘The Lucy Show,’ ‘The Rifleman’ and ‘The Beverly Hillbillies. Television copyrights “must be renewed every 28 years” and if they owner of the rights does not do that, then, television shows are placed into the public domain. Under these conditions, any person is free to package and sell those television shows as DVD box sets. These box sets can either be sold for extremely cheap or at the same price as licensed shows; the only difference is that shows still under copyright have to pay licensing fees, and are therefore not making as much money as the reproduced public domain shows.
One could ask if this entire concept is fair to the shows not in the public domain and paying fees. Any produced, and thus licensed, work can argue the pros and cons of the public domain, but without it there could be no protected works out of the public domain. Whether in the public domain or not, television shows are being reproduced onto DVDs, sold to the public, and bringing in legal income to companies. Rather than finding illegal ways of reproducing these classic televisions series, some fans and producers are willing to wait until they can be reproduced for a cheaper price, but still legally.
High licensing costs are one of the many reasons that many former television shows are unable to be reproduced as DVDs. Shows that are actually released on DVD often edit the language or change the music, in order to abide by specific copyright laws. “And some shows, like WKRP [in Cincinnati], which is full of music, will probably never make it to DVD because of high licensing cost.” Not only are some shows not even able to reach the DVD format, but those that do are often different than the originals. In these cases, the fans of certain television shows are disheartened and upset. “The fans don’t want syndicated cuts. They don’t want the songs replaced. They don’t want anything censored for political correctness. They want to see it in the way they originally saw it broadcast, enjoyed it, and fell in love with.” Some shows have been released in full in other countries, and only limitedly in the United States, due to a difference in licensing fees. For example, “only selected episodes from the first season of Ally McBeal had been released in the United States because of the high cost of music licensing. But in the United Kingdom, where different licensing deals have been struck, viewers can order all five seasons.”
In some instances, fans are willing to wait long periods of until the studios strike a deal and the television shows are eventually released. However, other fans are neither willing to wait nor pay the money for a show that has been altered from the original. Similarly, some producers do not want their shows reproduced differently than the originals. Since fans are unable or unwilling to legally purchase original copies of their favorite television shows, some have taken to finding and downloading them illegally. As a result, many copyright laws and infringement cases have erected. The technology of the Internet moves at a much faster pace than many of these current laws; therefore, since fans have take to finding alternative means of watching currently syndicated or previously cancelled television shows, copyright officials must find ways to stop them.
Jon Johansen, from Norway, was tried and acquitted on charges “for writing a software tool that can be used to overcome anticopying technology built into most commercial DVDs.” At the time, Norway was being pressed to mimic the strict copyright laws of the United States. With stricter laws, officials can ensure sufficient punishments for violators rather than having the charges completely dismissed, as they were in this instance. Stricter laws would also give companies more power to better protect themselves from people caught or accused of copying media products. In the past, “court cases targeting alleged piracy have generally gone in favor of the content owners to date, but the industry is still on the defensive and needs to bolster legal victories with better antipiracy technology.” However, as of now, the current “DMCA-like laws are the entertainment industry's best hope of fending off a new era of digital piracy.”
Currently, copyright officials are in limbo between the former and future laws, thus making it difficult to try cases. This specific case helped bring officials’ attention to the fact that copyright laws dealing with the Internet and anticopying technology need to be updated and made universal. Having non-universal laws makes it easier for piracy to go unpunished. By implementing and enforcing stricter punishments, companies would not only have stronger defense cases against Internet pirates, individuals would be potentially deterred from ever downloading illegally (or attempting to decode encryptions) in the first place.
This is a somewhat informative essay, particularly if one is interested in the production and distribution of anime films, but the argument it makes is an exceptionally simple one (although it dons the clothes of profundity). Cubbison’s essay basically wants to say that form effects content, and that now consumers are allowed to dictate (to a certain, very limited extent) form. She also adds that the form consumers desire is based on an idea of authenticity, but this aspect of the essay is only explored through the relation of a few contrasting anecdotes and resulting in the conclusion: nobody is really certain what an authentic text is but there are lots of opinions about what it may be. To get back to form, content, and consumers, though, one must admit that her argument is not a very novel or complex one. Form and content have always been interrelated, and have always been seen to mutually affect one another. Cubbison’s argument that anime fans have some control over the form (or work) of the anime VHS or DVDs they buy is interesting, but as she herself admits, the debate over what form the work takes is moot at this point since DVDs are now able to provide dubbed and subtitled, original and edited versions of any given work (whereas before VHS had to make formal judgments that often upset fans). DVDs have rendered the debate amongst fans about the most authentic form an anime work can take irrelevant because they can now offer every potential “authentic text.” Anyway, this essay is an interesting look at the way that anime fans have been involved with the distribution of anime films historically, and how these debates have been waged over “authentic” anime texts, but as you will find if you read this essay the tensions and squabbles surrounding the distribution of anime films has been squelched by the capacity of DVDs to provide all possible “authentic texts.” So, for a historical glimpse of the debates about form amongst anime fans definitely read this article, but beyond this the essay is little more than a rehashing of a now dead debate.