Wired is running a fascinating story about a set of three 12-year-old friends, who became so obsessed with the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark
in 1981, that they spent the next seven summers refilming the movie shot for shot
. It's a great story (in fact, so great, that there's actually a real movie being made about
these three friends making this movie), but you have to wonder what would happen if the same thing were tried again today. You'd have to think that the three kids would end up in an awful lot of trouble, rather than being celebrated. Let's run through the list...
- Illegal taping: The friends were able to learn the entire movie by sneaking a videocamera into the theater and taping it. As you know, the industry has been passing stricter and stricter laws for anyone found video taping a movie. The latest law in NY would lead to a $5,000 fine (the boys made their entire movie for $4,500) and 6 months in jail.
- Copyright infringement: By copying the entire film, clearly they could be accused of copyright infringement. In fact, just last year, Paramount sued an amateur filmmaker who downloaded the script for an Oliver Stone movie and tried to film his own version using acting students. Ironically (or maybe it's just sad), it's Paramount that's making the film about these boys recreating Raiders.
- Music rights: The film apparently makes use of the original score, which is obviously a no-no for the recording industry, as witnessed by the fact that the famed sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati had to dub in generic music as it couldn't afford the rights to use the music it had licensed for the original show.
- Public performance: Despite being infringing, this film hasn't just been for private use. It was first shown in a Coca-Cola factory auditorium upon completion, as well as at a variety of underground film festivals since then.
Everyone seems to acknowledge that this film probably violates all sorts of intellectual property rules -- though both Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas appear to be fine with it. However, a set of kids trying to do the same thing today would actually find it more difficult. While the tools to do so have become much more powerful and much cheaper -- the legal regime has become much worse. And, frankly, doesn't it seem like something is wrong with the system when a bunch of kids can't do something like this? It wasn't just a tremendously fun project for the trio, but apparently a great learning experience. All three of the "kids" now work in the entertainment industry. On top of that, the film has a huge cult following and has made many people extremely happy. You'd be hard pressed to come up with a way that this "cost" the original creators of the content a dime (and, if anything, probably encouraged a few more people to watch or rewatch the original). So why is it that these same kids today would potentially face time in jail, both criminal and civil lawsuits and huge fines for doing the same thing?