Thursday, March 20, 2014

Science Fiction Non-Fiction: George Lucas Vs. Congress

In 1988, George Lucas sat before Congress to protect the original composition of films.  At the time, some black and white films were being considered for colorization.  This led to the preservation of historical film and the establishment of the National Film Registry.

My name is George Lucas. I am a writer, director, and producer of motion pictures and Chairman of the Board of Lucasfilm Ltd., a multi-faceted entertainment corporation.

I am not here today as a writer-director, or as a producer, or as the chairman of a corporation. I’ve come as a citizen of what I believe to be a great society that is in need of a moral anchor to help define and protect its intellectual and cultural heritage. It is not being protected.

The destruction of our film heritage, which is the focus of concern today, is only the tip of the iceberg. American law does not protect our painters, sculptors, recording artists, authors, or filmmakers from having their lifework distorted, and their reputation ruined. If something is not done now to clearly state the moral rights of artists, current and future technologies will alter, mutilate, and destroy for future generations the subtle human truths and highest human feeling that talented individuals within our society have created.

A copyright is held in trust by its owner until it ultimately reverts to public domain. American works of art belong to the American public; they are part of our cultural history.

People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society. The preservation of our cultural heritage may not seem to be as politically sensitive an issue as “when life begins” or “when it should be appropriately terminated,” but it is important because it goes to the heart of what sets mankind apart. Creative expression is at the core of our humanness. Art is a distinctly human endeavor. We must have respect for it if we are to have any respect for the human race.

These current defacements are just the beginning. Today, engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tomorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with “fresher faces,” or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor’s lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new “original” negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires. The copyright holders, so far, have not been completely diligent in preserving the original negatives of films they control. In order to reconstruct old negatives, many archivists have had to go to Eastern bloc countries where American films have been better preserved.

In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be “replaced” by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.

There is nothing to stop American films, records, books, and paintings from being sold to a foreign entity or egotistical gangsters and having them change our cultural heritage to suit their personal taste.

I accuse the companies and groups, who say that American law is sufficient, of misleading the Congress and the People for their own economic self-interest.

I accuse the corporations, who oppose the moral rights of the artist, of being dishonest and insensitive to American cultural heritage and of being interested only in their quarterly bottom line, and not in the long-term interest of the Nation.

The public’s interest is ultimately dominant over all other interests. And the proof of that is that even a copyright law only permits the creators and their estate a limited amount of time to enjoy the economic fruits of that work.

There are those who say American law is sufficient. That’s an outrage! It’s not sufficient! If it were sufficient, why would I be here? Why would John Houston have been so studiously ignored when he protested the colorization of “The Maltese Falcon?” Why are films cut up and butchered?

Attention should be paid to this question of our soul, and not simply to accounting procedures. Attention should be paid to the interest of those who are yet unborn, who should be able to see this generation as it saw itself, and the past generation as it saw itself.

I hope you have the courage to lead America in acknowledging the importance of American art to the human race, and accord the proper protection for the creators of that art–as it is accorded them in much of the rest of the world communities.

Lucas wanted to protect the rights of the filmmaker and though he has tinkered with his own films often since this fateful day on March 3, 1988, Lucas is still tinkering with his own films. It smacks of hypocrisy as if George Lucas fighting corporations was somehow arguing against himself. One can see the splitting of hairs here.

Will the real George Lucas please step forward? If only there was a George Lucas clone to protect him from himself.  It sounds like a great time travel tale. Now about those Star Wars negatives.

The credit to this information goes to Film: Blogging The Real World and Brandon Schaefer from August 2011. I just found it interesting and wanted to look into it a little further.  I thought you might enjoy the overall transcript as well.


Cannon said...

I’m not sure why this continues to be an issue with people/fandom/internet culture.

When Lucas spoke out in favor of preserving cultural heritage in cinema, it was not -- I repeat not -- in regards to first-time theatrical distributions of whatever the given film nor audiences first-time experience of that film, but to the moral rights of the artist who made it; that is, films shared with a wider culture as intended by the artist his or herself. This is not a minor distinction concerning what he did with his own films; it’s a fundamental difference in principle. Hypocrisy has nothing to do with it.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I have no idea if it's an issue out there or not, as I'm not a die hard on this subject, but it was interesting enough to me just to see his thoughts before Congress.

Fair point Cannon.

In fact, I did mention that George was working on his OWN films and that is a fairly distinct point.

Perhaps it just feels to some fans that the originals are works of art and should be preserved in much the same way Lucas was arguing before Congress. I'm sure some people find it difficult separating the spirit of his argument for preservation with his own desire and right to revisit his own work.

So when you look at the hard facts, I understand your point.