Code and Pre-Code: Barriers to Accessing Early Sound Film in the Digital Era

KING, Rachel (2014) Code and Pre-Code: Barriers to Accessing Early Sound Film in the Digital Era. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2014 - Lyon - Libraries, Citizens, Societies: Confluence for Knowledge in Session 139 - Audiovisual and Multimedia with Information Technology. In: IFLA WLIC 2014, 16-22 August 2014, Lyon, France.

Bookmark or cite this item: http://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/889
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Language: English (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.
Bookmark or cite this item: http://library.ifla.org/889/1/139-king-en.pdf

Abstract

Code and Pre-Code: Barriers to Accessing Early Sound Film in the Digital Era

Streaming video on demand (VOD) technology has the potential to enhance the experience of movie viewers; in theory, it could offer the user not just instant access, but also a near-infinite range of film choices. In reality, in the U.S., the selection from consumer services such as Netflix is skewed in favor of mainstream titles. Furthermore, legal and commercial constraints ensure that films offered by subscription drift out of print as licenses expire; YouTube hosts many Hollywood films online, but too many of them are non-authorized, copyright-violating copies that can be withdrawn by rights holders without notice. While ordinary consumers may find these restrictions annoying, the ramifications for the academy are more serious; the commercial and copyright obstacles to access that impact commercial VOD services also threaten to disrupt pedagogical and scholarly activities at universities in the U.S. and around the world. Because of the importance of American films worldwide, the effects of U.S. copyright law reverberate internationally. In this paper, the availability of one category of American film—the early sound film from the 1930s known as “pre-Code”—is analyzed as an example of how U.S. copyright restrictions, American business practices, and changing audiovisual formats affect the availability and public awareness of large swaths of film history.

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