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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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Just a little anger/despair at the state of our cultural industries.

The 1993 film, Demolition Man is 1hr 55mins in length. That means that, at 24fps, there are 165,600 frames in the film. No single one of those frames is a substitute for the film or would damage its commercial viability for Warner Bros through dissemination.

Please be advised, although we appreciate your interest in our motion picture properties, we unfortunately do not have the material from DEMOLITION MAN you requested. Also please note, we have a strict policy against anyone lifting images (i.e., “freeze-frame” / screen grabs) to create stills. The only stills we will agree to license are those that were pre-approved for advertising and publicity of the film.

Yes, yes, there’s probably an argument for fair use/dealing in an academic book. But no, no, neither I nor my publisher want to risk getting sued by a multi-million dollar studio. So the book will be a little bit poorer as a result. Multiple film scholars I’ve corresponded with have said the same. Heck, I offered to pay them. Just a no.

It’s often argued that copyright is about enriching culture through incentivizing the creation of works by giving a time-limited monopoly to authors. The so-called Author’s Guild engage in reactionary lawsuits to protect their supposed constituents (I am an author and they definitely don’t represent me). But so many books are impoverished through petty rights restrictions that pose no commercial harm to the original holder but that cannot be risked by an author because litigation has such a high material and mental cost. In fact, inclusion of a screen-grab in a book would surely encourage people to revisit a film. Copyright holders may have the legal right to act in this way but don’t pretend, then, that copyright is being used to advance culture.