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Looks like everybody lost

Urgh! A Music WarThe 1981 British documentary Urgh! A Music War is universally acknowledged to be the single most important visual artifact of the New Wave. Ever wonder why it pops up on TV fairly often but you can’t buy it on DVD? For once it’s not postmodern intellectual-property madness that’s to blame, or at least not primarily. Wikipedia has the bizarre story:

The film has been released on videocassette but not on DVD. The film rights are currently owned by its original producer, Miles Copeland (founder of IRS Records), however the rights to distribute the film on electronic medium have been “lost” as a result of the collapse of the failed CED or SelectaVision video format. In order to promote the adoption of the format, RCA purchased exclusive rights to Urgh! such that it could not appear on ANY other media without re-negotiation. When Thomson acquired RCA, SelectaVision was a dead issue for them. During the acquisition the legal documentation and contracts for the distribution were lost. Until they are found or the material passed to the public domain, no genuinely legal distribution can be resolved, because should the contracts turn up, any current agreements could be considered void and the rights revert back to the holder. This could be fought in court, but given the number of artists and players involved the potential legal costs would almost certainly be astronomical. It is rumored that three songs from each band were filmed and saved during the editing process, and that Copeland has these in storage. This means that, should the rights ever be resolved, there’s potential for a 6-hour 2-DVD special edition, possibly containing over 100 songs.

N.B.: the careless "Thomson" in question is not the Canadian publishing/info Thomson, it's the French consumer-electronics and multimedia Thomson. (þ: MeFi)


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Comments (2)


Another excellent reason why copyright terms should be reduced to a more reasonable length.


The good news: Of all the postwar pop sectors whose documents might have been lost to us, New Wave's is one ot the slenderest


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