One-Armed Bandits

In light of Daniel Wolf’s plea for more intellectual property law expertise and input on the part of music scholars, it’s worth pondering this little cautionary tale: CBS Home Video has just released another volume of the 1960s television series The Fugitive on DVD, with one rather glaring change—all the original music has been stripped out and replaced by a recomposed substitute. As The Classic TV History Blog reports:

This is not the removal of occasional snippets of songs, which has (lamentably) become commonplace in the DVD realm because it’s expensive to clear the rights to popular tunes for home video. Instead, it’s the wholesale deletion of the entire original musical element of the series—and without any warning to consumers beyond a standard boilerplate disclaimer in tiny print. This is the first time any television show has arrived on DVD in such an aurally mutilated form. It’s a very big deal.

It’s not entirely clear why the change was made. The Fugitive relied on a tailor-made library of themes and cues by jazz composer Pete Rugolo, though sometimes also licensing stock music from CBS—but all concerned entities are now owned outright by Viacom. Was hiring composer Mark Heyes to substitute music on the fly simply cheaper than tracking down the old stock music composers and negotiating a royalty? (On the Film Score Monthly message boards, there was a report that the publishing rights for some cues were owned by a defunct company, and there was no clear transference; but, as others pointed out, that didn’t seem to affect the DVD release of the show’s first season.) Maybe we can get all the lawyers to fight it out on top of a carnival tower.

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