Once Again, Music Licensing Harms The DVD Release Of A Classic TV Show: The State Goes Generic

from the sad-days dept

Fans of The State have a cultish connection to the fantastic sketch comedy series that was on MTV in the 90s. Recently, DVDs of the show were released, and reader Milodon points out that like WKRP in Cincinnati, The Wonder Years and a variety of other classic TV shows, The State was unable to use the original music it had used when the shows aired:
Back in the free-wheeling 1990s, we had access to a huge library of popular songs to use as a soundtrack for the show. Today, licensing this music for the DVD would have cost us millions of dollars, and most of it was unavailable to us at any price. However, we have worked very closely with original series composer (and consummate rock star) Craig Wedren to carefully replace certain tracks, while maintaining the spirit of the original sketches as much as possible. The only moment in the whole series that we could not include on the DVD is a 15-second "link" where characters are singing a Pearl Jam song which we could not get the rights to.
Of course, we've seen how closely "the spirit" of the original music has been drained out of those other shows. Part of the reason these shows are such classics was their use of timely and evocative music. It still boggles my mind that it should even require any additional licensing. The music was licensed for the show. The DVDs are simply the same show. The music was already licensed. Why should it need another license? And, even if you grant the idea that it should get the license, why would anyone not let that happen? Having the music in these shows is never going to harm the market for that music or those musicians. It can only serve to draw more attention to that music, especially for people nostalgic for the time when the show aired.

Also, the page about the DVD notes one other bizarre change:
A few brand names and images had to be blurred or replaced for legal reasons.
I'm still trying to figure out what these "legal reasons" are. Last month we wrote about a lawyer whose job it is to make sure no brands appear unblurred in movies, but I'm struggling to understand the legal rationale behind this. It's not a trademark violation to use a brand in a movie or a TV show. There's not going to be any "confusion" from showing a brand or dilution of the brand because a long-off-the-air TV show isn't competing with those brands. This is yet another sign of the ridiculous levels to which intellectual property law has taken culture these days.
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Filed Under: copyright, dvds, licensing, the state


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  1. identicon
    The names were changed to protect the guilty, 11 Sep 2009 @ 6:25am

    Everyone loses

    My wife and I are just finishing the last of the four season series China Beach. The songs of the 60's and 70's are a major part of the plot.

    But, for the stupidity of the reasons cited above, this great show is not available on DVD. Stupidity similar to the Vietnam war depicted on China Beach.

    Irony? One episode showed the start of the use of Thorazine to treat PTSD, so a soldier could be redeployed quickly, which is regular practice in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    But due to RIAA gestapo tactics, I acquired this from some tireless volunteer workers that expunged the commercials, transferred media from sometimes even home VCR recordings, dealt with layers of maddening public domain software, and published it on some often less than legitimate exchange reference point without the possibility of compensation.

    But now I'm going to have to buy some of that music because I want it in my collection (12G ripped from CDs that I own). I didn't know that Jefferson Airplane did White Rabbit.

    And I have the money and inclination that if it had been available on DVD for a reasonable cost ($40/season), I would have bought it.

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