Monday, September 19, 2005

UbuWeb Film Section in Cease and Desist Limbo

I informed you about UbuWeb relaunch. Now it seems they've gotten into trouble before they even had a chance to get it properly running. Why do I get the cynical feeling that it's not actually the artists' money that is at stake here, but of different sorts of lawyers, agents, corporate businessmen and other "middle men" who take their own cut from the artists' original work? Yeah, it's again the same dispute as with the file-sharing of music: who actually rip off the artists most, some kids who illicitly distribute their music in the Net, or their own big-ass record companies...? (Only echoing here some sentiments already made by such people as Courtney Love, I don't claim to have any proper answers of my own.)

(And as a coincidence, a funny(?) story I just found from Brainwashed.Com.)


September 15, 2005

Dear Friends,

We relaunched UbuWeb on September 14th with over 150 avant-garde films in digital formats for your viewing pleasure. Within hours, we received several hostile letters from representatives of filmmakers -- all lawyers and business people, not the artists themselves -- issuing cease and desist letters and threatening lawsuits. Every time, it seemed, we opened our inbox yet another appeared. We had little choice but to obey and as a result, we have iced the section -- for the time being.

We never intended UbuWeb to take any money out of the pockets of these artists; rather we feel that simple exposure to even the most degraded, corrupted, miniscule, and compressed .avi would increase interest and exposure to avant-garde film, a field whose audience has long been in decline. Our idea was to make accessible the generally inaccessible, with the hopes that should you desire to see the film in all its glory, you will make your way to the nearest theatre showing them (although there are very few) or find better copies on DVD. UbuWeb was never meant to be a substitute for the experience of viewing a film; it was meant as a teaser, an appetizer, until you can get to the real thing.

However, the real thing isn't very easy to get to. Most of us don't live anywhere near theatres that show this kind of fare and very few of us can afford the several hundred dollar rental fees, not to mention the cumbersome equipment, to show these films. Thankfully, there is the internet which allows you to get a whiff of these films regardless of your geographical location.

Obviously, certain members of the film community did not share our sentiments. They would rather keep these jewels to themselves or a select few huddled in dark rooms.

One complaint read "Kenneth Anger is penniless and living in a shack, yet you are making his films available for free and taking money away from him?" To which we reply: if the current system of avant-garde film distribution was working so well, why would the great artist Kenneth Anger be living in a shack and not a mansion? Is this really a system to hold on to? Obviously, something isn't working. If they really cared about Kenneth Anger, they would hope to expose his arguably-forgotten work to a non-geographically-specific digital savvy audience via the radical distributive possibilities of internet. Guaranteed, Mr. Anger would see his royalties soar as a result.

UbuWeb doesn't charge money, nor does it make money, nor does it take money. The idea that our efforts in any way would enrich ourselves is preposterous. UbuWeb has been performing its version of community service for ten years without making a penny.

We'll be back with our film section. Just give us some time to sort through permissions, paperwork, and other sordid details. To be continued...

All the best,


Juri said...

Darn! I thought there was something wrong with the set-up, but I thought they'd cleared the issue. It's a small wonder that the avant-garde film-makers who don't actually make much money out of their films really don't want their films to be seen. But yet I can understand that they may not want them to be available free to everybody. I just hope everything is cleared and can continue being what it is.

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