In NY, Showing Orphan Indies; in the UK, Easing Access to them, Protecting Possible Holders of Copyrights, and Busting Crooks Who Breach Them

spider_baby_poster_02_optimized806x1075Today, 31 October 2014 and tomorrow 1 November 2014, at the Academy Theater in New York, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is presenting the second edition of “The Real Indies: A Close Look at Orphan Films.”

As did last year’s Real Indies in Los Angeles, the event consists of screenings with discussions of recently preserved or rediscovered orphan feature films – more than 30 of them, with more than 20 commentators.

Orphan films are films of any kind abandoned by their owners or caretakers… unless you consider the category a broader one that includes all kinds of film that don’t generally come immediately to mind. That could be films in the public domain that legally have ceased to have an owner, but also film-industry items, outtakes, unreleased films, kinescopes, test reels, and stock footage; industrial, educational, government, medical, and sponsored films; independent documentaries, ethnographic films, newsreels, and advertisements; home movies and other amateur films, student works, and found footage; censored material, underground works, student films, and experimental shorts; unidentified silent-era films and celluloid ephemera; and small- and unusual-gauge films.


A production still from “Spider Baby.”

And, hell, why not: surveillance footage.

At this year’s Real Indies, which the Academy is presenting in collaboration with NYU Cinema Studies and the Orphan Film Symposium, film screenings include the New York premiere of the Academy Film Archive’s restored 35mm print of Spider Baby (1964/68), an 80-minute cult horror-comedy written and directed by exploitation maestro Jack Hill, as well as trailers of several other Hill films from the Packard Humanities Institute Collection. An on-stage interview with Jack Hill will follow.

aloha-wanderwell_3_806x1075The second session of the event concentrates on the history of women in film. For example, Academy Film Preservationist Heather Linville will discuss her work preserving the films of explorer Aloha Wanderwell Baker, who documented her automobile expeditions on four continents during the 1920s. Linville examines the life of “the world’s most widely travelled girl” and reviews the recent donation of additional material from Baker’s estate and screen newly preserved films not widely seen in more than 50 years.

Connie Field presents her celebrated 1980 documentary film, The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter, which the Library of Congress placed on the National Film Registry, and which the Academy Film Archive has now preserved. Field will describe interviewing hundreds of “Rosies” and selecting the five featured in the final film.

The third sessions of the event are “Altered Reality” which presents works and appearances by works rare and strange – strange, in the good sense.

pioneering-women_aloha-wanderwell-1The event wraps up with “Visions of New York,” a session of 15 films from nine decades with analysis by a fine cast of film experts.

Unless you’re in New York, and around the corner, you likely won’t attend, but it offers a model surely worth emulating.

Speaking of Orphan Films

In Britain, the launch on 29 October 2014 of a new licensing scheme prompted the Intellectual Property Office of the British Department for Business, Innovation & Skills to declare that the measure “could give wider access to at least 91 million culturally valuable creative works” including documentary films along with diaries, photographs, and oral history recordings.”

Announcing the start of the new regime, the Intellectual Property Office explained that although the works in that huge haul are covered by copyright, they have no discoverable rights holders, at least as far as has been determined by people who’d like to ask for permission to reproduce them.

Under the new scheme, the Intellectual Property Office can grant a license so that these works can be reproduced on websites, in books, and on TV without breaking the law, while protecting the rights of owners so they can be remunerated if they come forward.

s216_neville-rolfeBaroness Neville-Rolfe (right), a businesswoman who joined the House of Lords in 2013 and in July 2014 became Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills, said the United Kingdom’s scheme was “trailblazing” in the way it “enables access to a wider range of our culturally important works” and yet protects right holders through its provision of at least a notional proper financial return. To that end, the scheme requires applicants to conduct a “diligent search” while also “allowing the rights holder to search the register of granted licences.”

Her announcement came in the course of British authorities’ campaign to sort out the copyright tangle that it shares with many nations, and to adopt measures that might at least curtail illegal copying.

A few days earlier, Baroness Neville-Rolfe told a gathering of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group on funding for the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit: “I doubt everyone here agrees on how counterfeiting and piracy should be tackled; however what’s important is that there is a common goal, and that’s why successful groups like the Anti-Counterfeiting Group are so important.”

The Intellectual Property Crime Unit, whose government funding has just been re-upped for its second and third years of operations, formed under the rationale that “intellectual property crime is costing the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds each year, with organised crime gangs causing significant damage to industries that are produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content in an increasingly competitive climate.” Moving-image media are not its specific concern, but clearly those come under its purview.

The 21-person crime unit includes detectives, police staff investigators, analysts, researchers, an education officer, a communications officer and representatives from the governmental Intellectual Property Office and the British Recorded Music Industry. That membership reflects the kinds of breaches that it is pursuing. In its 2013/2014 report, the governmental Intellectual Property Crime Group remarked a “staggering” range and incidence of intellectual-property crime.

To date it has taken such action as arresting two people on suspicion of selling knock-offs of hundreds of thousands of hit songs, computer software, and electrical goods, and has shut down websites hawking those sorts of illegally manufactured products. In December 2013, it arrested a man suspected of facilitating illegal broadcasts of Premier League matches by selling set-top boxes to pubs.

types of products investigated IP annual crime report 2013:4

Types of products investigated, per the IP annual crime report 2013/14. Illegal downloads and sales of film and video are just part of a larger picture.

Kieron Sharp, the director general of the Federation Against Copyright Theft, which dobbed in the alleged football-broadcast robber, welcomed the work of the unit, saying in a Unit statement: “Organised criminals are using the internet to defraud legitimate businesses and threaten the jobs of over 1.5 million people working in the UK’s creative industries.”

Among other actions that the Unit is boasting as part of a public-awareness campaign have been its investigation of more than £29 million worth of IP crime; suspension of 2,359 internet domain names; seizure of more than £1.29 million worth of suspected fake goods; and diversion of more than 5 million visits from copyright infringing sites to the PIPCU domain suspension page. The Unit has set up its “Operation Creative” which seeks to disrupt websites from providing illegal access to copyrighted content.

The British entertainment industry has actively pursued a parallel agenda. During 2013, PRS for Music, the British music-licensing agency (for collecting licensing fees and distributing them to member musician) developed a semi-automated search technology to locate and shut down torrent sites that enabled illegal downloads of songs and other music, television programming, Blu-ray titles, and even movies not yet commercially released.
Among a range of similar actions by other bodies, the UK Border Agency has been intercepting large volumes of counterfeit DVDs coming into the UK from Hong Kong for online sale through, for example, eBay, and tracing UK resellers.

In an October 2014 report, Mike Weatherely, MP, who for the past year has been Intellectual Property Adviser to the British Prime Minister, said that he had continued to recommend an approach that included a “carrot” in the form of new industry models for make legal purchasing attractive to consumers; and the “stick” of enforcement, “when all else fails.” But above all, he wrote, “despite the efforts of rights holders and their representatives, there remains too little understanding and awareness (or respect) of IP especially amongst younger consumers. Education is essential in addressing these knowledge gaps.”

Alice Cooper Mike Weatherly MP copy

Mike Weatherley, Member of Parliament and founder of Rock the House (, welcomed Alice Cooper to the Houses of Parliament and on a tour introduced him to the Speaker of the House, John Bercow MP (right). Photo:

To support his relatively conciliatory approach, he added: “With Government and industry recently agreeing to allocate significant funds for a public copyright education campaign, the timing is ripe to explore how we may work more effectively and cooperatively in this area. Greater coherence and coordination between industry, Government, academia and all other relevant stakeholders to deliver an effective positive message about the importance of IP to all our benefits, is my goal.”

Weatherley may, by the way, appear an odd ally of anti-social, drug-snorting musicians across the land who have IP rights claims. A Conservative Party member of Parliament, his advocacy for market justice doesn’t stop there. He successfully campaigned in 2012 to criminalize squatting in residential properties — that’s to say, for locking up people who in most cases seek shelter in vacant housing for lack of other roof over their head on cold nights.

That led to protests against him, despite his record of kindness to other varieties of animal: He has denounced Japanese whaling as “barbaric”; brought attention to other harsh dealings with animals, including farmed turtles in the Cayman Islands and foxes; and opposed hunting foxes with hounds as “a cruel and inhumane practice.” Well, and the includes scruffy, anti-social bludgers who can jangle a guitar and scream a lot, too. In 2010, Weatherley launched a national music competition, “Rock the House,” to highlight intellectual property rights. His House-guest Alice Cooper approved.

Categories: NewsShorts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Moving Image Archive News