Copyright and re-runs

By now, many of you have probably heard of the copyright problems surrounding the civil-rights movement documentary “Eyes on the Prize.” Because copyright permission for much of the material had expired, the film could no longer be shown (although PBS has re-issued the TV series for educational purposes). Two years ago, American University’s Center for Social Media released a report outlining the increasing difficulty documentary film makers were facing due to stricter copyright (see earlier posting).
Well, nothing has changed in the copyright world, as is evidenced in this recent story from Wired:

Wired reported a couple years ago that copyright issues were preventing DVDs of the much-loved WKRP television sitcom from being released. The problem? The show depicted life at a radio station, and at radio stations, music tends to get played. The show’s creators licensed the tracks included in the show for the length of its original run, but nobody predicted that there might eventually be another life for the series in syndication or as pre-recorded media, so those licenses expired, making it impossible to release the DVDs with that music included.
The series will finally be released on DVD on April 24th, but fans are already irate. The music originally included in the show has been replaced by generic muzak in order to placate the almighty copyright gods, who would otherwise have prevented the series from being released by (apparently) demanding so much licensing money as to render the whole project unfeasible

Somehow, there should be a fix for all this. I understand the rights of the copyright holder to a portion of the residual income. However, I worry about the ability of the copyright holder to change the terms of the deal and essentially hold up the entire project. Once again, it seems that our balance is off.

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