RARA-AVIS: Re: Hard-boiled music/Red Harvest Opera/ & the Copyright Problem

From: Keith Alan Deutsch ( keithdeutsch@earthlink.net)
Date: 14 Apr 2000

Sean Carson wrote:

I'm writing an oper(a) based on Hammett's _Red Harvest_. A workshop version of one scene will be performed soon...

> Tuesday, April 25, 8pm
> The Great Hall at Cooper Union
> Cooper Square betw. 3rd & 4th Aves.
> New York, NY (subway: #6 to Astor Place)
> admission is free.

Dear Sean Carson:

Your Red Harvest Opera sounds like an astonishing concept. But reasonable. However, the rights to Red Harvest are copyright protected. The Hammett estate is very vigilant--and also kind and understanding. I recommend you contact the estate's current agent, Jane Gelfman.

I am not certain, but I believe at one time my Hollywood agent (when I had a Hollywood agent for Black Mask) told me a client of hers had rewritten a movie script of that property a number of times for a fellow whose name I don't recall--but who said agent told me had somehow acquired all non publication rights to Red Harvest. Seems unlikely. But anything is possible.

As the owner, proprietor, successor-in-interest, and conservator of many pulp magazines, including BLACK MASK, I just wanted to let you know we copyright controllers can get pretty upset about unauthorized use of rights. At minimum you want a limited performance right license--if the estate were to get very formal about these things.

If you haven't considered these issues, I recommend just going ahead with the performance; but courtesy really requires that you attempt to inform the estate. Probably nothing will happen, or at minimum a legal notice might be sent by the owner to show no intention to abandon any rights to the property.

The rights situation with material from the old pulps is generally in a state of lost records and confusion. This is an interesting topic because without pirated editions, we would not have access to some very important material: FAST ONE, a great novel by Paul Cain--Peter Ruric--for instance was brought out a number of years ago by a London publisher. Who then accepted license fees for the publication of stories from Black Mask that were copyright protected by my predecessor in interest, Popular Publications.

A related problem is that thousands of images from the pulps are being published and sold on the web as if they were public domain, many of which are protected. Movie posters, too.

As my Black Mask Web Site matures, I intend to offer free downloads of illustrated stories--with printed upgrade pamphlets available at modest prices which will include three or four additional stories. But just because an owner gives copies of works away, it doesn't mean that she is giving away copyrights.

THE BLACK MASK MAGAZINE SITE In answer to many personal emails regarding the time frame for the Black Mask Magazine site: my software team tells me it will be up by the end of next week, so, based on experience, I am hoping it will be up by the following week.

Keith Alan Deutsch keithdeutsch@earthlink.net

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