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Undercrank Prods: “Beat the Boots”?

It’s an endless game of whack-a-mole. To some degree, there’s nothing to be done about it. I’m impressed that most of my DVD and Blu-ray releases have not been illicitly uploaded to YouTube. But several of them have, and aside from claiming rights on the scores, there isn’t much I can do about this. Or is there?

Beat the Boots” is a series of vinyl-cassette-CD releases of bootleg recordings of Frank Zappa’s music – that were released by Zappa himself. It was, after all, his music and performances that the bootleggers were leaking out. The idea was that if you were going to buy these, why not at least support the artist whose creations these were? Frank got ahold of these recordings and worked out a deal with Rhino records to put these unofficial recordings out, officially.

It only took a couple weeks, but once Beverly of Graustark (1926) was released on DVD and Blu-ray by my Undercrank Productions earlier this year, it was on YouTube. One or two of the uploads had my score, as well as the music credit title that says “copyright © 2022 by Ben Model. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate or repurpose without permission” as well as my production credits and the title crawl of the long list of Kickstarter backers.

I got those uploads yanked, but there was one YouTuber who understands some of this and had removed the score and the titles, and also the Undercrank Productions and Library of Congress logos. The film is in the public domain. I had not edited it or remade all the titles with different wording, etc. So, what’s an independent producer like me to do?

This isn’t a complaint or a rant, although I can see how it might be taken that way. I’m sharing a possible solution to dealing with the way the game is being played.

I’ve been considering doing what Frank Zappa did, or even what the Grateful Dead did: rope off a section at their concerts just for bootleggers to set up their tape recorders and microphones.

If I upload the video only edition of a film I’m releasing – maybe with a watermark and without the digital cleanup, tinting and restoration – the “I-just-want-to-see-it” crowd will get what they want (or are allowed to have). And at least it’ll be something I’m putting on YouTube. I can stick ordering links for the full restoration + score on physical media in the description.

Because it’s going to happen anyway, and if someone is going to be bootlegging my work it might as well be me.

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