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April 13, 2012 / Lee Skallerup Bessette

Copyright Madness

In my never-ending quest to be a Laferrière completist (which at this point I think is impossible* but I carry on), I finally tracked down a VHS copy of Laferrière’s little-know Radio-Canada 30-minute TV special, Voodoo Taxi. But, as you can tell, it’s not actually from Radio-Canada/CBC, it’s from an American distribution company, Beacon Films. Which, apparently, doesn’t exist anymore.

It should also be noted that it is an English version of the show, not the original French.

I was hoping that the library would be able to make a digital copy for me. Turns out, they are much stricter on copyright than I am – they refused to make the copy for me. Now, this is an inter-library loan and an nominally important part of my research (if only because of its rarity, it’s never been studied/written about, which, as any good academic knows, is academic gold). They are trying to purchase a copy for me, but I’m not holding my breathe. The company doesn’t seem to exist anymore and there is no record in the CBC/Radio-Canada archive of the show’s existence. Now, maybe if I physically looked in the archives somewhere I would find it, but I’m not going to be in Montreal or Toronto anytime soon.

I was thinking about my current predicament as I read Fun With Copyright over on the EMiC blog (which I am a member of for my Anne Hébert work). I’ll probably scour the databases for information on with whom and where the copyright might reside. I’ll probably email Radio-Canada, just for fun, although I’m not holding my breathe on that one.

Or, I could just play it through my computer and capture it. I don’t want to distribute it, I just want to study it! How is this different from photocopying a book because it needs to be returned to the library? Wait, it’s not and I’m not supposed to do that either?

Fun with copyright indeed.

Update: I was, in fact, finally able to dig through the CBC website and found where Voodoo Taxi could be purchased (or wait, maybe not, but at least there’s proof that it exists somewhere in the CBC archive)! But, it seems, not in French, as the equivalent site over on Radio-Canada turns up nothing.


*Why is it impossible? The number of interviews that Laferrière has done over the year in print, on tv, and on the radio is staggering. I don’t know if it would be possible to ever track them all, not to mention the various TV and radio projects he has contributed to as an “editorialist” – basically paying him to show up and talk about whatever he wants to in his unique way. Each profile I read of him, I find another layer, another possible “source.” It’s infuriating. And this isn’t even getting into the hundreds of La Presse editorials he wrote during his “break” from writing novels. Which I have, but have yet to read. Argh.


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