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Studios Nix Movie Riffing Shows

John Wenzel at the Denver Post has a story about how movie studios are closing down live riffing shows like Denver’s Mile High Movie Roast.

22 Replies to “Studios Nix Movie Riffing Shows”

  1. Kenneth Morgan
    Ignored
    says:

    Seems to me the studios would earn a lot more goodwill, and a lot more money, by just letting these shows run. Shows like this are just going to go smaller and less publicized, leaving the studios to waste time & cash trying to track them down and stop them. I’m just waiting for somebody to challenge the studios in court, though I have no idea how a First Amendment vs. Copyright Law case would end up.

    I would hope the studios would have more sense than to try and go after MST3K or RT. That’d be a PR disaster for them.

       8 likes

  2. Kenneth Morgan
    Ignored
    says:

    And that goes for Trace & Frank’s show, too.

       7 likes

  3. goalieboy82
    Ignored
    says:

    Kenneth Morgan:
    Seems to me the studios would earn a lot more goodwill, and a lot more money, by just letting these shows run.Shows like this are just going to go smaller and less publicized, leaving the studios to waste time & cash trying to track them down and stop them.I’m just waiting for somebody to challenge the studios in court, though I have no idea how a First Amendment vs. Copyright Law case would end up.

    I would hope the studios would have more sense than to try and go after MST3K or RT.That’d be a PR disaster for them.

    that is a good question on the First Amendment vs Copyright Law.

       0 likes

  4. mst3kme
    Ignored
    says:

    Wait, does that mean the end of MST3K and RT period?!

       0 likes

  5. MonkeyPretzel
    Ignored
    says:

    mst3kme:
    Wait, does that mean the end of MST3K and RT period?!

    I don’t think so. This is more geared toward the local riffing groups. It sounds like Alamo Drafthouse got some pressure from the studios, meaning they won’t get studio releases unless they kick out the riffing groups. Like others have pointed out, it’s a stupid, short-sighted policy. Don’t want your movies riffed? Make better movies. You’re not going to stop riffing the same way the music labels couldn’t stop file sharing.

    But I am concerned for Trace and Frank, since they have such a good working relationship with the Drafthouse. It might be that the future for them is going to be shows at independent theaters, once Frank is back up and around.

       6 likes

  6. TorgosPizzaNJ
    Ignored
    says:

    Looks like the off-market Riffers will just have remain in the public domain…I’d be willing to see Master Pancake do “Santa Claus Conquers The Martians”, just to see if they could avoid redoing any of MST3K, C.T. or Rifftrax’s comments…

       5 likes

  7. Johnny Drama
    Ignored
    says:

    IT WAS NOT ON CABLE-ACCESS! CAN WE DESTROY THIS RUMOR ONCE AND FOR FINAL, PLEASE!

       3 likes

  8. Johnny Drama
    Ignored
    says:

    Kenneth Morgan: I’m just waiting for somebody to challenge the studios in court, though I have no idea how a First Amendment vs. Copyright Law case would end up.

    It’s real easy, you can’t show and charge money for someone’s work if you don’t have the rights to do so, regardless of what you are doing with the IP.

       7 likes

  9. Johnny Drama
    Ignored
    says:

    “We were showing ‘Iron Eagle’ a number of years ago and were told we couldn’t show it on DVD, only the 35 millimeter print, because the art looks better,” Vogl said, pausing at length before continuing. “It’s ‘Iron Eagle.’ Does anybody really care?”

    Obviously, someone cared.

       3 likes

  10. The Original EricJ
    Ignored
    says:

    Johnny Drama:
    “We were showing ‘Iron Eagle’ a number of years ago and were told we couldn’t show it on DVD, only the 35 millimeter print, because the art looks better,” Vogl said, pausing at length before continuing. “It’s ‘Iron Eagle.’ Does anybody really care?”
    Obviously, someone cared.

    It’s real easy, you can’t show and charge money for someone’s work if you don’t have the rights to do so, regardless of what you are doing with the IP

    That’s the big problem, obviously, when every entrepreneurial backyard-wrestling fan WANTS to be Rifftrax Live, but doesn’t understand (or may be too fan-blindered) to appreciate why RT sticks to the public-domain titles–even the public-domain MST3K callbacks like “Manos” and “Magic Sword”–and has to Kickstarter if they want to show Krull or Mothra.
    They rush in with “Cult cheese! Deep 80’s Hurting!…We’re going to riff Highlander!!”, and forget that A) showing the DVD is illegal, and B) the theatrical print has an owner who wants money.

    The other problem is that, in wanting to portray themselves as MST3K/RT, they broadcast on the poster, “We’re going to use somebody else’s material for OUR comedy act!”, and the owner isn’t saying “Oh no, you’re not” just because he’s a bad sport. That’s probably why MST3K need Universal’s ownership before using This Island Earth for the Movie and Revenge of the Creature for the Sci-Fi series.
    Now, if they just SHOW the movies, and encourage the audience to do their own riffing, that’s perfectly within the boundaries of what theaters do. Fox never complained that the Rocky Horror screenings weren’t being taken seriously by the audience, but if a professional theater company decided to act out the movie onstage instead of the fans, they might hear from lawyers.

       6 likes

  11. SmudgyTheBootblack
    Ignored
    says:

    When Riffs are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Riffs.

       14 likes

  12. Johnny Drama
    Ignored
    says:

    SmudgyTheBootblack:
    When Riffs are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Riffs.

    Day 1, missed call…

       12 likes

  13. michaelkz
    Ignored
    says:

    Johnny Drama:
    “We were showing ‘Iron Eagle’ a number of years ago and were told we couldn’t show it on DVD, only the 35 millimeter print, because the art looks better,” Vogl said, pausing at length before continuing. “It’s ‘Iron Eagle.’ Does anybody really care?”

    Obviously, someone cared.

    A DVD is fine community movie night at the library, not for presentation in a movie theater. I have zero outrage for this situation.

       8 likes

  14. Kenneth Morgan
    Ignored
    says:

    If I read the article correctly, the riffers used PD titles, or they paid rights fees for the movies. And I’d have to figure the venue would pay MPLC for the public performance fees. It seems like the company just moved in and refused permission after those payments were made. That sounds less like, “We’re protecting our intellectual property rights”, and more like, “We want a bigger piece of the action.”
    I’d say that, as long as the proper fees have been paid, the companies’ best bet is to follow the example of Lucasfilm towards fan films. (Or at least how they handled it pre-Disney.) They’re attitude was that fan films were OK provided that 1) it was clear that it was not officially licensed material, and 2) it was not made for profit. While the profit question would be dicey, I’m sure the film companies’ could allow riffers to work as long as disclaimers were present. And they’d probably make more cash via licensing fees by opening up the field than by clamping down.

    Or they could just go the Orson Welles/”Cradle Will Rock” route, which would be an interesting variation.

       4 likes

  15. majorjoe23
    Ignored
    says:

    The Original EricJ: That’s the big problem, obviously, when every entrepreneurial backyard-wrestling fan WANTS to be Rifftrax Live, but doesn’t understand (or may be too fan-blindered) to appreciate why RT sticks to the public-domain titles–even the public-domain MST3K callbacks like “Manos” and “Magic Sword”–and has to Kickstarter if they want to show Krull or Mothra.

    I’m impressed that you mentioned Rifftrax without tearing into them, but I should point out most of what Rifftrax does isn’t public domain. Most of the movies they put out as VODs are licensed from studios.

    But most of what Frank and Trace riff are PD films, though they have done some licensing lately with The Creature Walks Among Us and I believe Neanderthal Man.

       14 likes

  16. myothernamewastaken3
    Ignored
    says:

    Kenneth Morgan:

    I’m just waiting for somebody to challenge the studios in court, though I have no idea how a First Amendment vs. Copyright Law case would end up.

    It would go nowhere on a 1st Amendment claim. The 1st Amendment protects free speech between an individual or organization and the government. Since no government entity is involved here restricting the use of the movies, there can be no 1st Amendment claim. It’s a common misconception. I see it all the time, someone will get something deleted on Facebook or something like that and people will be like what about my freedom of speech? They don’t have any between two non-government users. I don’t know if I explained that very well. In other words the 1st Amendment is to protect us from the government telling us we can’t say things.

    As Johnny Drama mentioned, you cannot charge admission to watch someone else’s created work. I suppose if the people riffing these movies wanted to do it for free, as in they aren’t getting a cent for the show then I would think that would be okay as they aren’t profiting. But the second you make a cent off of someone’s protected work, you’re violating their intellectual property rights.

    There’s no defense here under a 1st Amendment or fair use claim.

       10 likes

  17. The Original EricJ
    Ignored
    says:

    myothernamewastaken3: It would go nowhere on a 1st Amendment claim.The 1st Amendment protects free speech between an individual or organization and the government.Since no government entity is involved here restricting the use of the movies, there can be no 1st Amendment claim.It’s a common misconception.I see it all the time, someone will get something deleted on Facebook or something like that and people will be like what about my freedom of speech?They don’t have any between two non-government users.I don’t know if I explained that very well.In other words the 1st Amendment is to protect us from the government telling us we can’t say things.

    A better explanation is that Ownership is 9/10 of the Law:
    1A only exists between government and the OWNER of the particular media on which the speech exists. Which means that the owners–like the newspaper editor, the TV network, the managers of a comedy-club venue, the moderators on Twitter or Facebook, or even the owners of a property where a protest takes place–are the land barons than can dictate which of its serfs say what. (As was decided in SC’s case of CBS vs. the Smothers Brothers, where it was decided that if the Brothers worked for a network, the network could cancel their show for too many Vietnam jokes.)
    And in movie cases, that means the owner of the copyrighted IP, assuming it still has one…As MST3K fans waiting for “Godzilla vs. Megalon” and “Amazing Colossal Man” well know.

    Fair Use parody is still a misunderstood gray-area, but crying 1A there isn’t any coverall defense against copyright restrictions either.

       3 likes

  18. michaelkz
    Ignored
    says:

    Frank and Trace should be okay in smaller venues. We don’t have Alamo Drafthouse theaters in the Chicago area. When they did shows here it was done in an independent movie theater.

       2 likes

  19. Lawgiver
    Ignored
    says:

    myothernamewastaken3: It would go nowhere on a 1st Amendment claim.The 1st Amendment protects free speech between an individual or organization and the government.Since no government entity is involved here restricting the use of the movies, there can be no 1st Amendment claim.It’s a common misconception.I see it all the time, someone will get something deleted on Facebook or something like that and people will be like what about my freedom of speech?They don’t have any between two non-government users.I don’t know if I explained that very well.In other words the 1st Amendment is to protect us from the government telling us we can’t say things.

    As Johnny Drama mentioned, you cannot charge admission to watch someone else’s created work.I suppose if the people riffing these movies wanted to do it for free, as in they aren’t getting a cent for the show then I would think that would be okay as they aren’t profiting.But the second you make a cent off of someone’s protected work, you’re violating their intellectual property rights.

    There’s no defense here under a 1st Amendment or fair use claim.

    Very clearly explained, thanks.

       3 likes

  20. Kenneth Morgan
    Ignored
    says:

    Well, now it’s something of a contract law matter, I guess.

    If the venue paid the fees for performance rights to MPLC, then they can show the movie publically. If the group paid proper fees for use rights, they can show it and at least charge for expenses. If the film company then comes forward and says, “No, you can’t do that,” then the group can say, “We paid for the rights in good faith, and you knew who was buying them. So, either allow us to use what we paid for, or refund our rights payment in full.” If payment was made and accepted, and each party was acting openly and in good faith, then the matter is clear.

    At least, that’s how it seems to me. Where’s Kingsfield when you need him?

       3 likes

  21. Thad Boyd
    Ignored
    says:

    Disappointing, but not surprising.

    We already know the pain of rightsholders getting buyer’s remorse after their films get riffed.

    Kenneth Morgan:
    Seems to me the studios would earn a lot more goodwill, and a lot more money, by just letting these shows run.Shows like this are just going to go smaller and less publicized, leaving the studios to waste time & cash trying to track them down and stop them.I’m just waiting for somebody to challenge the studios in court, though I have no idea how a First Amendment vs. Copyright Law case would end up.

    I don’t think copyright law has anything to do with it, except insofar as it’s the instrument that allows studios to decide who is and isn’t allowed to show their movies.

    The studios get to decide which theaters get to show their movies and under what conditions. If I made a movie and said “Only theaters where audiences are required to wear funny hats are allowed to show my movie,” and demand that theaters sign a contract stipulating that they would require the audience to wear funny hats as a condition for showing my movie, that would be within my legal rights, because I am the copyright holder. I have the option to impose whatever conditions I want on showing my movie.

    If a studio says “We’re not going to license you this movie if there are going to be people riffing it,” that’s the studio’s right. It’s not copyright infringement to riff over a movie, but it’s copyright infringement to show a movie without permission from the owner, and the owner can withhold permission to show their movie for any reason they want.

    Kenneth Morgan:
    And that goes for Trace & Frank’s show, too.

    This may affect Trace and Frank’s ability to license films to riff, but for the most part they use films that are in the public domain. (I saw them riff Neanderthal Man last year and they mentioned that they’d paid for the rights but that it was the only film in their catalog so far that hadn’t been PD.) I don’t think this is likely to affect them, unless it makes Alamo Drafthouse gun-shy about movie-riffing in general.

       1 likes

  22. Thad Boyd
    Ignored
    says:

    Adding: Basically, what I think this means is that small, community-run riffing groups now have to do the same due diligence that MST3K and Rifftrax do for their live shows: it’s not enough for the theater to get the rights to show a movie, they also have to get explicit permission to riff it when they show it.

    Not only does that severely restrict the number of films available to riff, it also adds a whole lot of work to negotiating the rights. It’s a big barrier, and it’s completely understandable why smaller groups who are doing this for fun would rather close up shop than go to the trouble.

    Given the line in the article that Master Pancake is planning on sticking around, though, it looks like they, at least, are going to try and go forward with these new restrictions.

       2 likes

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