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Say you remember a show from your childhood and would love to watch it again. It could be for sentimental purposes, because you want to write about it, or make a research paper, or want to adapt it for the big screen, etc.

Now, say that the right holders are either retired and very old, and haven't decided to make a VOD or a DVD or a BLU-RAY offer for this TV show that would allow you to legally purchase or watch it again.

Is there a way to request that the right holders make the works for which they own a copyright public? I'm not asking how to get in touch with someone, but if there's a law that can make a copyright holder forced to release the works they own copyright to.

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There is no such law; copyright secures exclusive rights for the copyright holder (and related rights sometimes secure certain rights for the author which cannot be sold or given away except through death), but it cannot be used to force them to spend money to distribute it in a form that you can conveniently use. Such a rule would defeat the purpose of copyright law, which is to give the copyright holder control over the use of the work, not take away their ability to do so.

You can certainly request that they release the work, and can offer to pay them for doing so. But someone who does not own the copyright or any related rights cannot use copyright law to force the person who does own the copyright to spend their own money to convert a show into a new format.

  • But then copyright law works against the copyright holder's potential profits (and might also encourage piracy). Hosting a video file online and offering a VOD option for people to buy it almost never costs more than it helps earn. Say someone puts it on youtube, they'll earn money through the ads, money the right holders are losing, right? So competition of availability should make the copyright holders forced to share the works whose copyright they own. Well that's my view anyways... – MicroMachine Sep 7 '15 at 2:15
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    @fabriced I don't see how that follows. If the copyright holder feels it's profitable to release it on DVD, they have the sole right to do so. The only reason to have a way to legally force them to convert and release it is if they wouldn't do it themselves, meaning they don't think it'd be profitable. But regardless, copyright law does not exist so a judge can decide what would maximize the copyright holder's profit and force them to act accordingly, nor does it encourage competition of availability (quite the opposite, actually). – cpast Sep 7 '15 at 2:24
  • Somehow, I believe that there is a very close relation between piracy and unavailable content because copyright holders didn't want to make content available. It's actually not so hard to prove how much a copyright holder that didn't make content available lost to piracy. If this could be somehow proved during a legal lawsuit, I think it would change a great deal of things in the world of copyright infringements. It's also one of the reasons why as a copyright holder, I always make sure my works are available, because the minute I stop making my works available someone else does it (badly too) – MicroMachine Sep 9 '15 at 4:13
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    @fabriced None of which bears e slightest relevance to forcing a copyright holder to release their work to the public in a certain form. Nor is "it's unavailable legally" an excuse for copyright infringement. Are you saying "it encourages piracy if copyright holders don't release the content, so they must release it?" Because that is entirely backwards -- it's like requiring you to hold a yard sale because otherwise someone might break in and steal your stuff. – cpast Sep 9 '15 at 4:23
  • I think you pressed enter too soon! It annoys me a lot too :P – MicroMachine Sep 9 '15 at 4:26

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