Night of the Free Zombies
Christine Romero: I am writing to ask a question of George Romero, but I am unable to find contact information for him. His website (www.georgearomero.com) is now directed to www.diamonddead.com. I obtained your email address by doing a whois lookup for georgearomero.com. Mr. Romero's movie NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was recently announced to be freely available at the internet archive www.archive.org: http://www.archive.org/movies/details-db.php?collection=feature_films&collectionid=night_of_the_living_dead The announcement that I saw: http://boingboing.net/2004/03/23/night_of_the_living_.html contained a followup blurb: "Before 1978, any copyrighted work had to have a copyright notice on every distribution, otherwise it wasn't considered copyrighted. George A. Romero mistakenly left out the copyright notice when he distributed his 1968 film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The copyright has not recently "lapsed," but was in fact never enforcable, which is why we have dozens of "pirate" distributions of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and innumerable knock-offs." I am a strong supporter of artists' rights and avoid downloading copyrighted works; but I am also a strong supporter of improving our cultural heritage through a rich body of public domain works. As such, I am conflicted on whether or not it is "right" for me to avail myself of the downloadable version of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Further, I had the tremendous pleasure of meeting Mr. Romero at the Studio 35 Horror Marathon in lovely Columbus, Ohio last October. While this doesn't establish any kind of relationship between he and I, it does make it more important to me that I consider his opinion on the matter. I would very much like to know how Mr. Romero feels about downloading and/or redistributing his movie NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Thank you very much for any assistance you can provide. Best regards, skippy
Christine quickly responded:
Everyone else is doing it, you may as well too.
I’m trying hard not to read into that message, but I can’t help but feel guilty now!
I am very much opposed to downloading copyrighted materials. I’m against ripping CDs and DVDs that I don’t own. If I find value in an artist’s work, I think it’s important to speak with my wallet, and buy that artist’s work.
But as I said in my mail to Christine, I’m also very much in favor of a rich body of public domain works. I largely agree with Lawrence Lessig, who has been instrumental in advocating and mobilizing the Creative Commons. Lessig’s presentation at OSCON 2002 was extremely powerful and worth watching if you haven’t yet seen it.
So do I go ahead copying and distributing the public domain version of Night of the Living Dead, or do I infer from Christine’s email that George Romero is opposed to it, due in no small part to a simple mistake he made years ago?