I have been enjoying WGN replaying WKRP in High Def lately on Sunday nights. I am familiar with the issues regarding licensing and such for the great music that accompanied the original show. Now, many times, generic music has been overdubbed during the episode either too loudly or completely out of context to the script. Ok, what ever…
I just finished watching episode 33 “The Americanization of Ivan.” It is about a Russian agriculture group touring the US and stopping in Cincy to talk about pigs or something. One of them wants to defect. As a kid I clearly remember the last line the russian defector to say to Less was “Hold me closer tiny dancer…” I rewound the current show and listened to it again. Now, overdubbed, he says “take my order terrible dresser…” WTF? Is Elton John that proud of his lyrics that they are not even allowed to be spoken without royalties being paid? Maybe I missed something, but can words be licensed?
Without those changes and the deletion of all the great background music WKRP would have been too expensive to ever be seen in syndication. Too bad really because the music is such an integral part of the show.
If not that one then the one were Les is going out on a date with Jennifer and they changed the music when he was getting ready with the hairpiece.
Most of the time the loss of the music is minor, but there are a few episodes where it really hurts. I am extremely thankful that shows changed their licensing agreements later as Northern Exposure is another show that would have been hurt by the loss of the original music.
The oddest part is that for most of these bands, you would think it would in there favor to get there music back in play under any circumstances. It seems like many of them are cutting there own throats by retaining the more draconian rights negotiated back in the 70s.
Yes that is true and I have come to understand that record companies are inheritantly evil in nature so maybe they don’t need the extra sales and believe in the principal of never give an inch on a contract or they’ll be on a slippery slope.
“Hold me closer, tiny dancer” is a lyric. Lyrics are strongly guarded for infringement, and nearly always require payment, even if it’s a single line.
This is to benefit the songwriter, BTW. It’s managed by ASCAP or BMI, which means the record company isn’t involved at all. They want the songwriter to get paid when people play his songs, and nearly all of the licensing money does go to the artists.
For those watching in hi-def, is the sound improved along with the picture? Watching WGN on analog, standard TV, the sound is heavily compressed, which introduces an offensive (to me) “pumping”. When there is nothing being said, the background level, with its attendant noise, is increased. It’s very distracting, and I don’t see the reason for it except some sound engineer doesn’t know what he is doing or there’s some station default setting that no one bothers with.
I think it is WGN doing this processing, as it isn’t on the DVDs and I notice it on other WGN oldie shows besides WKRP.
That’s just incredibly sad to me. I think that’s THE most memorable moment of the entire series–yes, even more than the turkey drop. And it’s ruined. Now I know for sure that I have no interest in watching WKRP on DVD.
WKRP was able to use the music at all because of a peculiarity in the licensing rules. Since the show was shot on tape rather than film it was subject to more favorable rates. Those terms, however, ran out in the early nineties, so the syndicated episodes were re-edited with the mangled “sound-alike” music.
And, FWIW, “Northern Exposure” suffers from the same problem. Not all of the music you hear on the DVDs was part of the original broadcast. Some of the music has been replaced due to licensing issues.
There’s an episode of WKRP in which a local minister (played by character actor [and real life “thereapist to the stars”] Richard Paul that Arthur Carlson respects gradually censors much of the station’s play lists. Carlson finally has enough of it (though what makes it work as an episode is that Paul, who later played Falwell in a couple of movies, doesn’t play the character as one dimensional or hypocritical) and he reads the man the lyrics to Imagine, asking if he has a problem with them, which of course he does. Carlson informs him that he’s censoring thought- that the song doesn’t say there is no heaven, no hell, no possessions, etc., just to imagine it.
Anyway, since the lyrics are critical to that scene, and since Paul and Jump are both dead and can’t redub anything, I wonder if they still used the Imagine lyrics. Anyone know?
Also, if I were to go on TV to discuss lyricosis and use the “hold me closer Tony Danza” line as an example, and specifically say “it’s what people have interpreted Hold Me Closer Tiny Dancer as”, I wonder if I’d have to get permission.
I don’t know what the current laws are. But on Steve Allen’s syndicated show back in the late 1970s, guest Gabe Dell remarked to someone who had just gotten a pie in the face, “Cream gets in your eyes?” (for you youngsters, that’s a reference to the song, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”) Allen informed him that that constituted a parody, and would cost them a certain amount in royalties.
With all due respect, the absolute most egregious example is the fact that they replaced Jennifer’s doorbell chime (“Fly Me to the Moon”) with something else. It’s thirteen doorbell-chime-type notes, not the original song or any recognizable cover version of it, and I would guess it is wholly unidentifiable to 95% of the people who might hear it.
(In fact, I only know that it was “Fly Me to the Moon” because someone told me that’s what it was.)
IANAL, but I think legally, it’s a tricky question, but usually no- as Campbell v. Acuff-Rose pointed out, a parody is considered fair use if it criticizes the original work, which most parodies do. “Weird Al” Yankovic always gets the rights ans pays the songwriter and artist royalties when he does a parody, though- not because he’s legally obligated to, but because he’s a nice guy and wants to make sure they approve of the parody.
I’m always surprised by how vague copyright law can be in some areas and how rigid it is in others. I think they need to hold some form of conference at the Copyright Office and hammer out some clear and delineated (and reasonable) details.
For example, I think it’s perfectly reasonable that Disney wants to keep Mickey Mouse copyrighted even though he’s been around for 80 years; the reason I think this is reasonable is because they’re still in business, they’re still making money off of him, and it’s as much a part of their brand as the formula to Coke. However, I think it’s ridiculous that they also extended copyrights on other works to such inordinate lengths- the later works of Mark Twain (pseudonymous work) would only just now have come out from under copyright in 2005 if the revised laws had been grandfathered. Pygmalion, because though it was performed in 1913 Shaw lived until 1950). In some proposed legislation all of Mark Twain and Bram Stoker’s Dracula and other works that are well over a century old would still be protected because their authors have not been dead for 100 years.
And also, it’s ridiculous that quoting a line from a song that everybody knows should require payment of royalty. That’s not a violation of copyright in any reasonable interpretation.
A reason I keep mentioning Twain is his speech to the copyright office. He was actually arguing for copyright extensions, but that’s because at the time they were too quick to expire (maximum of 42 years from date of publication).
[SIZE=“1”]Twain’s only surviving child- Clara- outlived him by 52 years, but in that time she made enough from his estate to take care of herself (she was worth about $2 million when his copyrights expired in 1960). Oddly, it did also take care of Twain’s only grandchild, Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch, though she wasn’t a happy person and committed suicide soon after her mother died. When Nina died intestate, followed soon by her aged stepfather, her half of the family fortune gathered from Twain’s copyrights passed to her stepfather’s relatives, Franco-Russian relatives of Clara Clemens’s second husband, who I’m sure were thankful for it really had no hand in its generation. However, under proposed copyright extensions, their grandchildren would still be receiving royalties from Huckleberry Finn.[/SIZE]
It was instantly identifiable to me when I first heard it, but maybe I’m not your average viewer.
It was replaced on the DVD with I Dream of Jeannie (with the light brown hair), Stephen Foster’s tune. Thank goodness that’s in public domain. It sure wouldn’t be if Sonny Bono had lived in Foster’s time.