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Disney Decides To Kick A Dying Man Over Copyright Issues

Esquire has written a moving profile of film critic Roger Ebert. He has lost the ability to speak due to extended illness. Beyond relying extensively on his wife, Chaz, he now writes out messages on a pad and uses computer software to convert text to speech.

Page 6 of the profile describes the following sorrowful and disgraceful incident involving Ebert's on-line tribute to his professional cohort Gene Siskel who passed away years earlier:

Our eyes would meet, the voice reads from Ebert's journal, unspoken words were between us, but we never spoke openly about his problems or his prognosis. That's how he wanted it, and that was his right.

Gene Siskel taped his last show, and within a week or two he was dead. Ebert had lost half his identity.

He scrolls down to the entry's final paragraph.

We once spoke with Disney and CBS about a sitcom to be titled "Best Enemies." It would be about two movie critics joined in a love/hate relationship. It never went anywhere, but we both believed it was a good idea. Maybe the problem was that no one else could possibly understand how meaningless was the hate, how deep was the love.

Ebert keeps scrolling down. Below his journal he had embedded video of his first show alone, the balcony seat empty across the aisle. It was a tribute, in three parts. He wants to watch them now, because he wants to remember, but at the bottom of the page there are only three big black squares. In the middle of the squares, white type reads: "Content deleted. This video is no longer available because it has been deleted." Ebert leans into the screen, trying to figure out what's happened. He looks across at Chaz. The top half of his face turns red, and his eyes well up again, but this time, it's not sadness surfacing. He's shaking. It's anger.

Chaz looks over his shoulder at the screen. "Those fu " she says, catching herself.

They think it's Disney again that they've taken down the videos. Terms-of-use violation.

This time, the anger lasts long enough for Ebert to write it down. He opens a new page in his text-to-speech program, a blank white sheet. He types in capital letters, stabbing at the keys with his delicate, trembling hands: MY TRIBUTE, appears behind the cursor in the top left corner. ON THE FIRST SHOW AFTER HIS DEATH. But Ebert doesn't press the button that fires up the speakers. He presses a different button, a button that makes the words bigger. He presses the button again and again and again, the words growing bigger and bigger and bigger until they become too big to fit the screen, now they're just letters, but he keeps hitting the button, bigger and bigger still, now just shapes and angles, just geometry filling the white screen with black like the three squares. Roger Ebert is shaking, his entire body is shaking, and he's still hitting the button, bang, bang, bang, and he's shouting now. He's standing outside on the street corner and he's arching his back and he's shouting at the top of his lungs.

I have no words.

Read more: http://www.esquire.com/features/roger-ebert-0310-6#ixzz0fjocEDUe


Comments

Very poignant article. Another quote from the article.(Page 5)
"He took his hardest hit not long ago. After Roeper announced his departure from At the Movies in 2008 Disney wanted to revamp the show in a way that Roeper felt would damage it Ebert disassociated himself from it, too, and he took his trademarked thumbs with him. The end was not pretty, and the break was not clean. But because Disney was going to change the original balcony set as part of its makeover, it was agreed, Ebert thought, that the upholstered chairs and rails and undersized screen would be given to the Smithsonian and put on display. Ebert was excited by the idea. Then he went up to visit the old set one last time and found it broken up and stacked in a dumpster in an alley"
Ebert was an early champion of my (now copyleft) film Sita Sings the Blues. He wrote an excellent review while the film was still in copyright jail. I didn't know how he'd weigh in on the copyright issues holding back the film, but when he learned of them I was relieved and delighted by his response. He agreed that it was ridiculous for corporations to demand extortionate fees because they "owned" 80+ year old songs that were supposed to be in the Public Domain.

He's an extraordinary man for a lot of reasons, and I'm grateful to have met him in person at Ebertfest last year.

Great story Nina! Thanks for sharing. And don't be shy about plugging your great film. Everybody should set aside some time to watch it:

http://www.sitasingstheblues.com/

So wonderful and SO sad at the same time!
DO you people intentionally try to mess with someones train of thought??? (pause)I just now re-read,and now see the slight connection with 'patent/copyright','intellectual property'.For a tidbit of info I have to read through a couple pages of theatrics???

kk


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