More copyright abuse

Here’s another instance of using copyright to hurt a creator.

In 1971, Ken Russell made a film some (including Mark Kermode, above) consider his masterpiece: The Devils, starring Oliver Reed. It is, to put it mildly, controversial, being the story about a corrupt priest who finds his faith amidst a bout of societal religious hysteria.

Russell, the creator, had his work cut by the rights owner, Warner Brothers Inc. But in the late 1990s, with the help of Kermode, Russell created a restored print, bringing the film back to his original vision.

That director’s cut has been screened a handful of times, but never released wider than that, never on video tape, never on DVD, never on BluRay, never on any digital streaming service.


The film already exists. (It was lost, but restored, and now it exists.)

As Kermode makes clear, there is a market for it.

If the problem with corporations was that they were “greedy”, why on Earth is Warner Brothers not releasing this and making some extra cash?

One suspects there is more to the story than “it’s controversial”. This smells of personal animus, of somebody in corporate punishing Russell (and now his ghost), settling a personal score simply because he can.

If you observe how copyright is actually used, it turns out not to be employed to protect creators’ rights, but to give non-creators arbitrary power over the creations they did not make, and more often than not to punish the actual creators.

Yet another instance where IP Warriors will shrug, sniff, and say “he knew the how the system worked when he made the movie, so it’s his fault”.

Yet again, when you are in a position of defending sociopathic manipulators who have successfully gamed a system, maybe you’re on the wrong side of things.