Perhaps the most difficult element of the Sillitoe project so far has been trying to get my head around copyright, particularly with regards to film stills from the movie Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. MGM, who now own the rights from Woodfall, don’t seem to pick up their emails very often which is a little worrying as The Space goes live on 1 May. I’ve been informed by various people in the trade that this is perfectly normal and most likely because the project isn’t going to reap much financial reward and so there isn’t really the motivation to respond. This seems a little odd given the recent Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills in Congress that claimed piracy costs the U.S economy between $200 and $250 billion per year as well as the loss of 750,000 American jobs. You would think they would be after every penny.
The initial process for clearing rights is relatively straight forward. You register on the MGM website and put in a request for content. Getting them to respond is the difficulty. Tony Roe of Inside Out has been helping to chase this and if he has had difficulties as a documentary maker with the BBC, it makes you wonder what chance anyone without an established media institution behind them has. As a back-up, we’re crediting the stills as the property of BFI/Woodfall films and through more email notifications will either take the images down if MGM are unhappy or pay them what they want once they sort out an invoice. I had anticipated this kind of problem which is why I brought in New College Nottingham as a partner to illustrate various scenes – but even here you have to be careful. If they were to create an illustration that looked like Albert Finney then we would be in breach of copyright due to the ‘likeness.’
Despite all of these difficulties, I had the pleasure of going down to the BFI last week and working my way through the archives. I even had to put on a pair of those funny white gloves. It was a real privilege to be able to do this, particularly seeing shots of the cast taken off camera. I never realised how many freckles Albert Finney had on his nose and cheeks and Shirley Anne Field is absolutely gorgeous. We were after images for the five key locations on our App trail (Old Market Square, White Horse, Raleigh, Trent Embankment and Goose Fair) and found some real beauties. There was a great one of Norman Rossington riding the Market Square lion but unfortunately they didn’t have the one of Albert Finney and Shirley Anne Field in the same place. I love this image and have it stuck on my office wall at work.
The BFI content can be accessed online and I’d strongly recommend anyone doing a similar project to check out their website. Thanks to a collaboration between regional film archives and the British Film Institute, film archive collections from across the UK can now be searched online which saves a lot of time. By combining archives, it’s pretty easy to search out content based around particular themes. This means if we have a problem getting the rights to show a clip of Arthur Seaton working in the factory we can always use a documentary about Raleigh from some other footage. The BFI have the rights to a lot of documentaries and so this is also easier to clear. So if you see a ‘for sale’ sign up at my house over the next six months it means I’ve got it all horribly wrong and a lawsuit for my troubles.