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Legaciesqui custodiet ipsos custodes?


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#1 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 01:47 PM

In response to a point raised by bart on the "Tchaikovsky pas de deux" thread, here's a springboard to another layer of discussion:

Many choreographers, ballet masters and teachers have left considerable wealths of materials - to name a few, Balanchine, Ashton, Tudor, Fokine, etc. Prudently, mechanisms, whether they be simply called Estates, Foundations, Trusts, or all of these and more, have been put in place to maintain the continuing presence of the legacies in the world. One thing I have tended to notice about corporate structures as a whole, whether public or private is the conservatism of the trustees, beneficiaries, managers, and whatnot. Granted, they have a job of preservation of history, but advancing technology seems continuously to outpace them. (If you think arts preservation is technophobic, you should see GOVERNMENT! That's why the wily secret agent will always be with us in the movies. Government often does not know how to help itself when faced with advances.) It is my opinion that all of these dance preservation organizations have completely mastered television. Now they seem to be working on home video recording technologies. Exploitation of the potential of cell phones may be as much as a decade away. The blanket answer for dissemination of information relating to the several benefactors seems to be what government does. If you don't have a complete handle on it, forbid it. Now, from a business standpoint, this course of action is rather prudent. But from a moral standpoint, it is very weak, and leads to the willful suppression of information, which is one of my favorite bÍtes noires. I noted with some delight last week, when an AP story broke regarding human rights in Finland. It seems that they have interpreted communication as a civil right. Imagine the implications if that were done in the US! :speechless-smiley-003:

#2 papeetepatrick

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 02:52 PM

I noted with some delight last week, when an AP story broke regarding human rights in Finland. It seems that they have interpreted communication as a civil right. Imagine the implications if that were done in the US! :speechless-smiley-003:


I have no knowledge with which to address any of these specifics in your post, but this further movement into interpreting something as a 'civil right' is very like the term 'human rights' itself. I think it was in the 90s, with lots of reports on the old MacNeil-Lehrer Report, in which it began to stand out that certain nations--China always seemed to be emphasized, but was not alone--were always having this 'human rights' balanced against matters of 'trade'. I hadn't ever thought as an American of 'human rights' as something that was thought of as a separate category from other large fields of endeavour, labour, international cooperation, even though 'human rights', like certain seemingly obvious 'civil rights' have often been neglected here as elsewhere and had to be corrected through legislation, fighting and determination, and over many years. But politicians were all of a sudden (I thought it was all of a sudden) talking about 'well, yes, we have to take into consideration human rights', and I think they were usually talking about nations with whom they enjoyed important trade relations and with whose treatment of their citizens they knew perfectly well they couldn't interfere and dictate. But then there were the real organizations Human Rights Watch, I remember that woman who was the head of it then (adrienne something?), but not her name. In any case, I don't think you hear the term 'human rights' applied to conditions in the U.S. either, even though civil rights obviously always did refer to specific movements against racism here. But in America, 'human rights' never seemed to be a subset, or secondary consideration, at least as something to be esteemed and held precious, even when failure to uphold what was meant by the term was often blatantly obvious. In these interviews with Lehrer and MacNeil discussing China, I really did notice that 'human rights' was given a very openly secondary importance, insofar as it was being explicitly balanced against other 'goods' and there was going to be willingness to sacrifice these 'human rights' sometimes. It must be the matter of the powerlessness to control the internal machines of other powerful nations. But Americans are in the position of talking about 'human rights' because we supposedly (and may actually) value them, whereas you wouldn't hear any talk of 'such nonsense' in authoritarian countries.

So I guess it doesn't seem that strange to me to here this kind of terming of 'communication as a civil right' in Finland, where there wouldn't be a problem with it (or most human rights either, given that that's prosperous), but I may be completely missing your point here, not to mention knowing nothing about the Trusts & Estates, and obviously this matter may be very peripheral to what your main point is about the Balanchine Trust (and the others.)

Edited to add: It occurs to me that you may mean 'communication' in the more contemporary sense of 'communications' as a 'civil right' in the Finland reference. In that case, it's pretty complicated, and 'communications', when they began to involve commerce, wouldn't necessarily be a civil right unless you had the 'privilege of paying money for it'. I think I'm going into a mild fugue state on this, though, now imagining that YouTubes should necessarily be forced from ballet companies etc., they have to wise up like the newspapers, for which we internet users pay nothing, etc.,

#3 bart

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 05:05 PM

Mel, thanks for starting this topic. I'd like to focus on the issue of the suprression of online video clips and the very limited amount of video released by ballet companies, legacies, trusts, and foundations, rather than the larger philosophical issue.

I'm glad that you remind us of the missions -- excellent for the most part -- of such organizations:

Many choreographers, ballet masters and teachers have left considerable wealths of materials - to name a few, Balanchine, Ashton, Tudor, Fokine, etc. Prudently, mechanisms, whether they be simply called Estates, Foundations, Trusts, or all of these and more, have been put in place to maintain the continuing presence of the legacies in the world.

This is a "conservative" function in the best sense of the term. But, as you point out, these organizations are conservative in a negative (or counterproductive) way as well:

It is my opinion that all of these dance preservation organizations have completely mastered television. Now they seem to be working on home video recording technologies. Exploitation of the potential of cell phones may be as much as a decade away. The blanket answer for dissemination of information relating to the several benefactors seems to be [ ... ] [i]f you don't have a complete handle on it, forbid it.

I agree that this is not a good policy "from a moral standpoint." But I wonder whether it's good even as a business model -- in the sense that the "business" of such organizations is to perpetuate and propagate the work of the choreographer or of the company itself.

Recently, a study was published comparing consumer attitudes about small retailers versus internet shopping. The study covered three kinds of business: book shops, travel agencies, and new-car dealerships. People -- especially younger people -- may express regret at the the passing of the small, traditional shop, but they actually prefer to shop -- or at least research -- on the internet or at shops with a strong internet connection.

The article pointed out that there is a place for smaller retailers in these fields (especially if the costs are low or if they appeal to a niche or specialized market). Little hope is held out, however, for larger retailers -- and ballet companies ARE retailers, among other things -- that continue functioning in the pre-internet way.

This seems to apply to organizations like the Balanchine Trust or Paris Opera Ballet, just to mention two organizations which have shut down YouTube video sites in the past few days.. They have an enormously valuable product, which they themselves acknowledge by their limited release of certain ballets in dvd.

However, because they don't understand or value the internet, they seem to approach it primarily in terms of suspicion and even hostility. Other than the occasional approved dvd, they seem to be unable or unwilling to imagine other ways to reach this large potential audience.

As music companies have found (after a great deal of initial resistance) there are ways to protect the product and make money on the internet. Bootleggers and pirates only flourish when legitimate products, reasonable priced and easily accessed, are kept off the market. (Case in point: the Prohibition fiasco in the U.S. in the 1920s.)

Surely there must be ways that performances could be made available to the specialized audience of ballet fans that would help spread the work while keeping control over the quality AND making a little money along the way.

How about selling approved clips for downloading, as music companies do? There are also sorts of ways this could be packaged, analogous to selling individual songs under the heading of the Album name. I can imagine, for example, a series of clips from individual dancers . Or ballets. Or companies? Or themes? Why not?

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 05:50 PM

When it comes to the Finnish situation, we have to remember that Finland is not the US, and their laws will be interpreted in the light of their own historical precedents, down to the advancing present. It is fun, however, to contemplate Communication as a Civil Right in the US. If communication is a civil right, how do you justify having to pay for a US Postal Service? Or a telephone? Or internet access?

#5 papeetepatrick

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 06:17 PM

If communication is a civil right, how do you justify having to pay for a US Postal Service? Or a telephone? Or internet access?


I know, the capitalist commercialist in me started going all dizzy, realizing that although we know that the best things in life are very often bought with money (or at least nicely mixed with some), maybe we might end up not being able to sell anything, if everything gets so vaporized, but don't mind me. And, after all, free long distance is also very common now, everybody i know has it, including myself. Isn't it only about 5 years since we were always making sure we didn't stretch our time into impossible long distance bills?

#6 TenduTV

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 08:18 PM

Surely there must be ways that performances could be made available to the specialized audience of ballet fans that would help spread the work while keeping control over the quality AND making a little money along the way.

How about selling approved clips for downloading, as music companies do? There are also sorts of ways this could be packaged, analogous to selling individual songs under the heading of the Album name. I can imagine, for example, a series of clips from individual dancers . Or ballets. Or companies? Or themes? Why not?


Bart,

To answer your question: there are a lot of factors involved, and it is something we are working very closely on (if you're not familiar with my company, TenduTV, it may come as a positive surprise that we've got the distribution pipeline for exactly what you're talking about - 70 distribution partners capable of reaching 500 million devices in addition to computers). To release any particular ballet, there are a lot of deals that need to happen in order to get the approval that you seek. It's not just the ballet companies and the trusts, it's the music rights, the stagehands, the dancers, the ancillary rights holders (set design, costume design, lighting design). For some companies, these costs can exceed $1 million per program (not an easy sum to spend given the economy). All of these stakeholders are thinking the right way - but getting everyone to the table and getting the deals done is a very labor intensive, long and complex process (one company has seven unions with which they need to negotiate, plus the dancers). Over the next few years, you will see a transition take place. It's not all good news though - there are older performances and productions that are unlikely to see the light of day outside of a public library or preservation organization. Enforcement/takedowns of YouTube clips will also increase in their breadth and their speed.

But at the end of the day, you will see a wider variety of both high quality performances and viewing options.

#7 bart

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 05:12 AM

To release any particular ballet, there are a lot of deals that need to happen in order to get the approval that you seek. It's not just the ballet companies and the trusts, it's the music rights, the stagehands, the dancers, the ancillary rights holders (set design, costume design, lighting design). For some companies, these costs can exceed $1 million per program (not an easy sum to spend given the economy). All of these stakeholders are thinking the right way - but getting everyone to the table and getting the deals done is a very labor intensive, long and complex process (one company has seven unions with which they need to negotiate, plus the dancers).

I can see the enormous complexities. And I realize it takes time. All the participants need to be persuaded that they lose more by NOT responding to the internet opportunity than by resisting what seems to be perceived as a threat.

Over the next few years, you will see a transition take place

Great news. I appreciate the efforts of people and organizations like yours. Ballet can only benefit.

It's not all good news though - there are older performances and productions that are unlikely to see the light of day outside of a public library or preservation organization. Enforcement/takedowns of YouTube clips will also increase in their breadth and their speed.

Understood. There is no ideal solution that will make everyone happy. From the fan perspective -- and speaking for students who do not have the luxury of travelling to a handful of major dance libraries to watch material in guarded surroundings -- I hope that people like us are given a place at the negotiating table.

Many thanks for all your efforts and for the efforts of people who think like you and us.

#8 Quiggin

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 11:22 AM

As it stands the Balanchine organization that handles the Interpreters' Archive has not been too helpful in distributing study tapes to its member libraries, although I believe that is a part of their mission policy. I live near San Francisco Performing Arts Library and it seemed impossible to arrange an inter-library loan of a tape done with SF Ballet dancers.

Regarding originally generated recordings of performances posted on You Tube, I was wondering how much of a threat of dilution to something like the Balanchine brand do they constitute.

The sort of tapes I'm thinking of are very techicially primitive -- Wendy Whelen at Spleto doing Other Dances, Part and Gomes in Swan Lake, & a Don Quixote-ish in spirit Swan Lake excerpt with Valdes and Frometa.

Bits of head and strands of hair, clapping hands, extraneous voices of children figure as large as the dancers on stage. They're the sort of tapes Degas or Cartier Bresson might do today and capture the spirit and experience of live performance far better than deadly official versions (more like Russian Ark than Paris Opera Jewels).

Would Ann Barzel’s bootlegged Kodachrome films of Ballet Russes performances & early Balanchine be off limits?

#9 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 01:37 PM

A very related sort of story popped up in today's NY Times - about Mark Twain.

http://www.nytimes.c...ref=todayspaper

The survival of an heir here, and an overly prim sense of editing has bowdlerized Twain's record. A similar clouding of the historical record happened in the case of George Armstrong Custer, whose widow survived into the 1930's, fighting tooth and nail against anyone criticizing "her Bo." Does this sort of thing affect ballet as acutely? I suspect not, but an overly reverential management of information can lead to errors in transmission, which is deadly for art constantly "at the vanishing point".

#10 papeetepatrick

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 02:07 PM

Maybe, but that article doesn't even mention 'letters from the earth', which already took me way beyond this-- "Wry and cranky, droll and cantankerous — that’s the Mark Twain we think we know, thanks to reading “Huck Finn” and “Tom Sawyer” in high school"-- well before I was even in high school. It seems to me that the NYTimes is doing some 'errors in transmission' a lot these days. I've noticed unbelievably idiotic things in the Opinionator (they publish embarassing things that are like Creative Writing Course 'compositions'), and censor comments on their blogs when there is no abuse, profanity, or off-topic. One still has to use NYT, but it's not up to its Paper of Record reputation anymore. But while I know what your point is, I think this article is poorly researched, if they'd do an opener like that, plus the below entry was interesting for the decision on Clara's part to oppose the 'Soviet propaganda', which is, of course a bit ironic, since they did nothing but suppress. Maybe 'gradual release' is par for the course in a lot of domains. It certainly is with govt. secrets, but that's normal. That Letters from the Earth is 'stories' is beside the point. You definitely already see another side of Twain that you'd never gather from HF or TS, and a lot of people have read LFtE. I'm definitely startled at some of the half-assed things I read in the Times, esp. when it's not an urgent matter or world affair, and there's plenty of time and personnel to get it right.

Of course, the article is correct that we learn much more from the autobio, but we knew a lot already.

The Wiki entry on LFtE isn't half-bad: "Letters from the Earth is one of Mark Twain's posthumously published works. The essays were written during a difficult time in Twain's life; he was deep in debt and had lost his wife and one of his daughters.[1] Initially, his daughter, Clara Clemens, objected to its publication in March 1939,[1] probably because of its controversial and iconoclastic views on religion, claiming it presented a "distorted"[2] view of her father. Henry Nash Smith helped change her position in 1960.[2] Clara explained her change of heart in 1962 saying that "Mark Twain belonged to the world" and that public opinion had become more tolerant.[1][3] She was also influenced to release the papers due to her annoyance with Soviet propaganda charges that her father's ideas were being suppressed in the United States.[1] The papers were edited in 1939 by Bernard DeVoto.[1] The book consists of a series of short stories, many of which deal with God and Christianity. The title story consists of eleven letters written by the archangel Satan to archangels, Gabriel and Michael,[1] about his observations on the curious proceedings of earthly life and the nature of man's religions. Other short stories in the book include a bedtime story about a family of cats Twain wrote for his daughters, and an essay explaining why an anaconda is morally superior to Man."

#11 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 03:20 PM

Yes, and there is good evidence that C.S. Lewis was acquainted with Letters from the Earth when he wrote The Screwtape Letters in 1942. The issue is still with the transmission of information in both letter and spirit of its creator(s). I am concerned that the several organizations entrusted with these missions may be providing too little of the total content back into the world to allow its permanence. Who's running Quality Control here? Self-policing organizations tend not to after an initial burst of enthusiasm, and simply become noise.

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 July 2010 - 03:07 AM

I suppose I'm leery of monopolies based on an early admiration of Theodore Roosevelt. One of TR's main features for his administration was trust-busting. Like Roosevelt, I have nothing against business making money, but like him, I have to be concerned that the way in which it is done is not only lawful, but ethical. Ballet trusts will never have the same clout as Standard Oil, but the potential for going astray is the same for them as it was for Rockefeller. And I have nothing against copyright, either. A creator/inventor is certainly entitled for fair return on his/her invention, and I can extend that to the first generation of survivors after the creator's death; after all, that's what U.S. Grant wrote his memoirs for, to ensure his family's upkeep and well-being. I'm also chary of today's legal climate, in which the legal fiction of the "corporation" has now been accorded civil rights like (and potentially greater than) real non-fiction individuals. Issues in Artificial Scarcity present themselves here, and the locking up of the art of ballet in a sort of "Disney Vault", renewing its copyrights, perhaps into an unending future. So again I ask my subtitle question, "Who's guarding the guardians?"

#13 TenduTV

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Posted 12 July 2010 - 07:32 AM

For the record, my position on copyright is that it is something to be respected. However, I also think the current duration of copyright is beyond excessive.

To answer a few of the questions:


"Would Ann Barzelís bootlegged Kodachrome films of Ballet Russes performances & early Balanchine be off limits?"

Ultimately the question is: what is the status of the underlying rights? If all of the underlying rights are public domain, and the film itself is public domain, it's public domain. If some of the rights are still under copyright, then those would require permissions. Especially with material created in the 20's, the answer could go either way.

If an entity were to get a hold of the originals and remaster them, the remastering work would be subject to copyright protection. For example: if you have an early big band recording released on a 78 rpm record, and you were to digitize it, reduce the static and release it on CD you could claim copyright protection for that recording on the basis of that work (of course, it's also possible for anyone to get a copy of the same 78, do similar work, and release it into the public domain).

"As it stands the Balanchine organization that handles the Interpreters' Archive has not been too helpful in distributing study tapes to its member libraries, although I believe that is a part of their mission policy. I live near San Francisco Performing Arts Library and it seemed impossible to arrange an inter-library loan of a tape done with SF Ballet dancers."

This could be for a lot of reasons, and may have nothing to do with the Balanchine Trust. For example, the libraries themselves recognized a significant problem regarding fair use with their collections, interlibrary loans, etc. Last year, in an effort spearheaded by the Dance Heritage Coalition, they assembled an industry-wide policy covering these matters. (Some libraries were concerned that if they had illegal copies of copyrighted work that they had a legal obligation to destroy them... ack!)

So, if you're still having problems, download the .pdf from this link: http://www.danceheri...e_statement.pdf and bring it to the library (although I'm fairly certain they're up to speed at this point).

"Regarding originally generated recordings of performances posted on You Tube, I was wondering how much of a threat of dilution to something like the Balanchine brand do they constitute. "

To reiterate... Balanchine Trust is one of many stakeholders here. Even if they're the only ones handling the practical aspects of enforcement, it doesn't mean they're the only one acting on some level.

#14 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 July 2010 - 11:41 AM

As if on cue, the Times comes forward with this op-ed:

Regarding perpetuity

#15 Quiggin

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Posted 12 July 2010 - 12:33 PM

Thank you TenduTV for your responses. I agree that the duration of copyright is excessive and stifles free exchange of ideas -- and also that wholesale posting of large chunks of commercially available original material -- beyond quick quotes -- is unfair.

Regarding the Balanchine Foundation, their statement is that

Master tapes are housed in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and copies are made available to non-circulating research repositories around the world.


Perhaps this is not administratively possible, but still it would be great if some of the tapes were actually available for viewing at member libraries. The individuals who participated in these modest productions may have done so believing the videos would be available on a broader basis than has been the case.

My question about You Tube broadcasts is more to the question as to when extraneous elements -- the shaky photography, extremely oblique angles, the occlusionary shadows -- add a value and signature, albeit unintended, that creates a new original. Juan Gris repainted several of Cezanne's paintings, faithfully following the original compositions, but his own style flattens some aspects of the original and gives an very un-Cezannean elegance to others and creates a new work of art. Ann Barzel's films certainly bear her signature. It seems that at some point that such "degraded" videos are no threat to the owner or trustee of the original choreography.

You've perhaps answered this in your example about removing the scratches (though here it's the equivalent of generating them).


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