The Wonder Years Unavailable On DVD Due To Music Licensing Rights

from the another-one-bites-the-dust dept

One of the tragedies of ridiculous music licensing practices has been that TV shows that involved great music can no longer be seen — because when they were first aired, there was no aftermarket, and so no rights were cleared with the music owners. The famous case is the TV show WKRP in Cincinnati, which tried to get around the issue by replacing all the great classic rock in the original, with crappy new music — really harming the quality of the show. Tom sent in a note pointing out that the classic 80s TV show The Wonder Years is actually facing a similar issue, and because of it, the show is not available on DVD. The show was famous for integrating great music into the overall show — clearing all that music for a DVD release is apparently too difficult, leading to an overall loss to society and culture.

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Comments on “The Wonder Years Unavailable On DVD Due To Music Licensing Rights”

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Martin Cohn (profile) says:

Not Officially Available...

But as anyone who follows the show on IMDB message boards knows, bootlegs are freely available.

Fans would rather pay to have the real thing, but instead either do without or buy crappy copies that earn absolutely zero for the original cast and the greedy folks that control all of that great music.

Rather than make money they earn nothing because of their unbeatable combination of greed and stupidity. What a shoddy way to represent the artists that made such a tremendous soundtrack. Given the chance to make money they rathole their goods instead and cry “Piracy!”.

Paul Bettencourt says:

Re: Not Officially Available...

Hi.I made the mistake of buying a bootleg DVD set .Of the television show the Wonder years.And when I got the lousy set I was very upst and dissapointed.None of the discs worked .Even after going to Blockbuser video near My house.To try and have them buffed out .I found out that all the discs were scratched badley underneath the labels.I tried to return the bogus set/but the return address was in Cinese.And when I tried sendig the cite a email.They wanted to know how old all the DVD players in My house are.I tried playing them in all eight of our DVD players .Even My DVD recorder.And the assistent Postmaster blamed Me fore buying a Chinese bootleg.I would not recommend that anyone buy any of these sets online.The cites selling them are nothing but a bunch of heartless croocks!!!I’ll never trust anything like that again!!I hate bootlegs /but I thought that they would atleast work .And god only knows if this classic television series will ever come to DVD.The People who control the music Wrights ought to be ashamed of themselvs.A whole generation is being given a raw deal !!!!!

Robert Garofano says:

Re: Re: Not Officially Available...

Hi, I had the same issue with purchasing a bootleg DVD set of the series. Not 1 of the 8 discs worked properly, 1 disc even had something completely different on the dvd, it wasnt even wonder years.
Also, they asked me the same questions about how old the dvd players were.

What a waste of money!

They should just officially release it.

Anonymous Poster says:

This is also the same reason MTV’s animated series “Daria” isn’t available on DVD (with the exception of the two films) — tons of music licensing issues. Plus, replacing the music isn’t an option, as many of the songs they used were integral to several scenes in the series. (The movies, for the record, had replaced music instead of being available as it was aired.)

Music licensing issues have also affected many other shows, including “The Fugitive”, “Roseanne”, “Married with Children”, and “My Three Sons” (and it’s one of the factors, but not the main factor, that’s keeping the ’60s “Batman” series off of DVD).

Screw the RIAA, screw the music licensing contracts, and screw everyone who keeps TV shows from being preserved on DVD as they were originally aired.

Anonymous Coward says:


This reminds me of Klimbim (1973-1979), a German comedy show with Elisabeth Volkmann and Ingrid Steeger. The show was aired on German public television, paid for by TV licensees and tax payers. The show cannot be released on DVD because of licensing issues. Elisabeth Volkmann is already dead. I guess we have to wait until all the other actresses and actors died, too, so that some executives of the entertainment industry get a bigger share. Klimbim seems to describe copyright best.

scott36 says:

Paying someone to advertise their product.

One of the reasons I have not bought the dvd set for Northern Exposure it was released with alternate music due to music industry greed.

However the prohibitive costs of licensing the music is completely backward in my opinion. The key to selling any product is exposure. Isn’t this why anyone trying to sell anything spends time and money thinking of ways to advertise their product.

Personally hearing a new song or old favorite in a movie, tv show, hell even teasers and commercials is what sparks my many itunes impulse buys. Really old catalog stuff in particular. Honestly think about all the music you loved but never knew the performer and one day you hear it and thanks to google can find who the artist was by typing in a few lyrics. Then thanks to the beauty of a la carte song buying can buy it and enjoy it forever.

I consider it product placement to have your song played to a captive audience. Didn’t the music industry used to bribe people just to get exposure? Remember payola?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say they should pay for the privilege of having their music used. Since the producers benefit from the song as well it is a symbiotic relationship both sides benefit.

Licensing should be a token amount just to say we have a deal. But should never for one second should the fee be so high that the use of music places a financial burden on the show or translate to ridiculous dvd set prices. However an artist should be able to refuse to allow their songs to be used for any personal reasons. I wouldn’t want my work to show up in some hate groups recruitment dvd for an extreme example.

Wake up music industry! You used to bribe, cajole, and strong arm the radio stations just to get some airplay. And for some reason you forgot that exposure sells your product.

nasch says:

Re: Paying someone to advertise their product.

You can’t have it both ways. Either the rights holders can set whatever conditions they want for licensing, or they cannot. You cannot preserve an artist’s right to not have his music used by a hate group and at the same time prevent a megacorporation from holding a DVD release hostage because of greed over the licensing cost. I don’t know exactly what the solution is, but I would lean towards opening up the content more. People will learn eventually that just because they hear music somewhere doesn’t mean it’s an endorsement by the musician.

y8 says:

overall loss to society and culture?

OK, I get the point of the article. I too was a ‘Wonder Years’ watcher and really enjoyed it because of memories brought back by some of the characters’ experiences as well as the soundtrack.

But come on, it’s a little over the top to describe the lack of this show on DVD as “an overall loss to society and culture”.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: overall loss to society and culture?

Why not?

First of all, whether you consider it art or not, TV is a part of modern culture. The Wonder Years was an influential show that won a lot number of awards. Fred Savage was the youngest ever actor to be nominated for certain Emmy awards at the time, and it also won a Peabody award.

It was also popular internationally – check out the following quote from the show’s wikipedia page:

“…the show was met by a huge exposure amongst young audiences and teenagers throughout Israel. For many adults in Israel, the show is both a personal and a collective childhood memory.”

Not having the show on DVD does a couple of things. It firstly restricts access to the show. If it’s not repeated on a channel you have access to, and it’s not available on DVD, for many people it may as well not exist. Given the above, that’s a loss to society and culture, however minor you believe it to be.

Then, there’s the effect the soundtrack has on people. Even today, the show can act as advertising. People hear songs they like in a show, they find out what the song is and who it’s by. They may then decide to go out and buy said music, which they probably won’t do if they never hear it within the context of the show… The replacement music in WKRP has been shown to not only lessen the impact of the show, but also removes the potential exposure viewers have to the music of the period.

I’m not a fan of either show myself, but removing the original forms from history does seem to me to have a negative effect, both on the show and the musicians and artists who could benefit from the original formats being available. All so the RIAA can rape a few extra licensing dollars (while of course ignoring the benefits of having these shows available).

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, that’s why you want to think ahead when writing contracts, folks. You bet your sweet bippy that the folks writing contracts these days have requested the rights to re-use the music on DVD, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, holographic cubes, the crystals from the Fortress of Solitude, and anything else.

If you want to blame someone, blame the lawyers who decided that the music to the shows they represented was a short-term, disposable investment.

Petréa Mitchell says:

Another example

This also happened to a Doctor Who story which was set in the 1960s and uses a couple of Beatles clips. (Search for the paragraph that starts, “The copyright holders…”) Ironic, as the Beatles were fans of the show way back when and nearly appeared in one of the early episodes. Luckily, in this case, the music was replaced for the DVD release.

Melissa says:

Why can’t there be a stipulation stating that programs created before these music licensing laws were enacted are not subject to the law.
Classic Cars are not required to have seat belts, or pass smog checks if they were made prior to a certain year. This affects human lives and our environment…. I guess when it comes to money matters, not a cent can be spared!

Paula Bettencourt says:

the Wonder years television show

I just want to say that I think it’s a rotten shame .
That this great show is not available on DVD.
I tried buying a bootleg.
Which I normally don’t do and I got ripped off.
I guess I got what I deserved!
Thats the first and last time I’ll ever do that again.How can they be so rotten?Maybe after the music rights exspire it will finally be availabe.
You’d think someone as wealthy as Joe Cocker would try and work a deal fore fans of the show .
I only bought the botleg because I wanted to be able to see the show again.
It did’nt do me any good cause none of the disks worked.
I would’nt advise any one to buy these illegal sets that are available !!

Valerie McKinney says:

Re: the Wonder years television show

Joe Cocker is a wealthy guy from a long time ago. He could use the current exposure to keep that wealth going. I just saw the DVDs offered on Facebook so I was hoping they were the real thing and the agreements had been signed. Looks like more bootleg.

I thought both Wonder Years and WKRP were ground breakers in TV and would love to own the REAL thing.

Jon says:

Wonder Years TV Series

What a shame, that a wonderful series will not come to DVD due to red tape over the music rights. I grew up with the wonderful lessons of this TV show. Sure wish my child could see the tender, and oft times humerous situations that most kids go through in one form or another.
Such a shame, that money corrupts one more thing of beauty. I guess the only lesson my son will learn is that money, and greed, corrupts. Pity, real pity…..

Ryan says:

Bad Excuse

I’m guessing that Music licensing rights are a little difficult to overcome, but certainly not that hard. There would be no way “One Tree Hill” could ever be on DVD if it were. That show actually names the episodes after the names of songs. ABC could produce the Wonder Years DVD’s if they wanted to, but it would appear they are more interested in spending money on shows like “Dancing with the Stars”

Gary says:

Wonder Years

Ok, we all agree that it’s awful the show The Wonder Years is not available on DVD. I’ve been waiting for YEARS and I’m done waiting! That being said, I see dozens of web sites selling bootleg copies. Has anyone had any GOOD luck with any of these sites as my only concern is the quality of the sound & video?
If so, please post the link.
Hopefully, I can get to see The Wonder Years again “with A Little Help From My Friends”.

FrankieB says:

Wonder Years Non-DVD Release

How much money do the artists WANT ?? This isn’t a music video where the music IS the story. These songs were heard for 30 seconds – 1 minute, tops, during a sitcom. You NEVER heard the entire song. Never.

So….in a 23 minute TV show, you have 4-5 songs being shown for a total of maybe 2-3 minutes. I agree the artists should get something, bit IMO if they already consented to letting the music in the show for original airing + reruns, then they should not be allowed to block distribution of the show on VHS/DVD/Blu-Ray. The FCC does not allow cable companies to withhold programming from satellite TV companies which they own. They have to share access. Why should some embittered or greedy artist block a show’s release, when in fact he already gave his consent earlier (question: was there a limit to how many times WONDER YEARS could be shown in repeats before the artists got more $$$ ?).

Contact your elected officials and tell them that if the artists don’t work out a deal, they should be subject to binding arbitration. Otherwise, deny all copyright protection on all their previous recordings. That will get these greedy SOB’s off their asses at the RIAA and their clients as well.

Tim Wiggins says:

The Wonder years DVD

It is a shame this whole Country is based on GREED every thing revolves around the numbers. And i almost bought the set off the inter net but when i saw one set with 6 dics another with 10 another with 7 another yet with 16 i kmew somthing was not right esp when Amazon or overstock can not get them.

Paula Bettencourt says:

The Wonder years

I love the Wonder years and think that Fox is just not trying hard enough.
Because when I call Fox they don’t seemto care or even know what I’m talking about .
When I mention the Wonder years on DVD.
I’m told to go to every time I do and I mention what the show is about .
No one responds to my emails.
I found out online that Boy meets world is being released on DVD by Lionsgate.
And that show I understand has simuler issues to the Wonder years.So maybe their’s a ray of hope after all.
The Wonder years is supposed to be comming to a new TV channel called the Hub.
Deicated to children and family shows.
If I can find the Wonder years on that channel then I think I’ll try and burn it onto a disk..
I agree it is tragic that this show is not available on DVD.
I guess tat just goes to show what greed can do.!!

phuqertrfc says:

Wonder Years DVD

I ordered a copy of the Wonder Years on DVD from ebay several years ago.
It was on about 8 DVD’s and it worked absolutely fine.
It was recorded episodes from TV, but it was still decent quality.
The episodes are in chronological order and are accessed via a menu system, which is exactly what I was looking for.
I figured it was worth it just so I could watch it as and when I wanted until the proper DVD’s came out.
Several years later and they are still not out, so I think it was well worth the purchase.

I even redesigned the artwork to make it look more professional and started selling copies on Ebay so that other fans could enjoy it as well.

I sold quite a few copies before Ebay stopped me.

If any of you do want a copy and don’t want to risk buying one from a dodgy site that rips people off, let me know and I’m sure we can arrange something.

Mandy says:

All I know is that when I watch an episode of the Wonder Years on TV, I hear the music and get a nostalgic feeling thinking about watching the show as a kid. If anything, I would think that releasing the DVD’s would only ADD to the financial gain of these music artists…but I guess they are not interested in that. It is their loss and I will just have to get bootleg copies like everyone else that no one benefits from other than me. Oh, and I’ll keep my money too. That’s what they want, I suppose….

Paula Bettencourt (user link) says:

the Wonder years television sho

Like all of you I have also been very depressed about the Wonder years being unavaible on DVD.
I’ve tried about five different bootlegs and they’re all pretty much crap.
However this past year the Wonder years has been apearing on the hub.
So I’ve been burning them onto discs.
And the results have been very good.
I don’t exspect the Wonder years to be on that channel after January of this year.
Because after a year it usually gets cancelled.
That’s why I’m using the highest grade discs I can find TDKs.
Because these are better then any of the bootlegs available on the net.
And they’re certainly better then nothing at all.
Also I just read on the that episodes of the Wonder years has been apearing on netflix.
And the bulk of the songs are intact.
So that’s encouraging news/but I won’t hold My breath for official season sets/but it does sound promising.

Wonder Years Should Be On DVD By NOW! says:

FYI ABC Doesn't Own Rights to "Wonder Years"

ABC may have originally aired “Wonder Years” but they didn’t produce the show or distribute in syndication so they have no control over music rights and stuff like that. Honestly, how expensive are these music rights for “Wonder Years” and also “Malcolm in the Middle” that they can’t have DVD releases? The DVDs I have of “Grey’s Anatomy” have all the music from the original TV airing with nothing changed. Are the rights for songs featured on “Wonder” and “Malcolm” more expensive than rights for songs featured on “Grey’s”?

Kyle says:

Re: FYI ABC Doesn't Own Rights to "Wonder Years"

It’s because back when it came out no one had any tv series on vhs, the format was too small. So they only bought the rights to have the music played during the original run of the series and any reruns as it would be cheaper.

We’re talking about a time when no one even thought that it would be a possibility in the future for an entire television series to be purchased and owned for home viewing, so it never crossed their minds;

But hey, now The Hub is running reruns, and apparently Netflix streaming has the whole series so you can watch it with the click of a button.

Can’t wait to see what the future holds.

FrankB says:


Look, I am all in favor of artists getting paid. But these guys gave their consent for the Original Airing + Reruns. Take it to arbitration.

They are effectively preventing the release of the TV shows by withholding permission. Look, if some artist doesn’t want his rock video airing on MTV, that’s one thing. It’s HIS song and HIS music. But he already gave consent to partial use (30 – 90 seconds at most) before.

You want results ? Contact a Republican Congressman/Senator. They aren’t beholden to all the liberals in Hollywood and the music industry. They’ll threaten the RIAA and they’ll work something out. Right now, the RIAA is a legal cartel that is blocking release of other people’s materials. Imagine if a cardboard box company said they wouldn’t allow their product to be used for milk cartons anymore.

Fitzwilly says:

Contact a Republican Congressman/Senator? Yeah right.

They won’t do that, especially since the Repukes support the rights of corporations to do what they want. As much as I hate to say this (since it’s likely to be hard), you’ll have to see about getting the Green Party or the Socialist Party elected to some ballots in a few states (and starting at the local level but working from the bottom up)-they care about this a lot, I’ll bet.

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