The Wonder Years and Copyright

I grew up watching The Wonder Years, and some years ago, I wanted to be able to share that show with my spouse.

It wasn’t available. Why? The songs and copyright.

The songs in The Wonder Years — and they had so many good songs; they’re such a part of the texture and meaning of the show — hadn’t been purchased with DVD or streaming rights in mind or somesuch. Because of course, DVDs and streaming didn’t exist when the show was made.

So for ages, you could only watch The Wonder Years if you ordered a sketchy bootleg DVD set, illegal and extremely low quality. Though arguably, better than nothing if you just wanted to share the experience.

This is part of why I will never be wholly against pirates and piracy.

Culture needs to be preserved even when it isn’t profitable.

Art needs to be preserved when it isn’t profitable.

Culture, art, and meaning are more important than profit. They are what makes life worth living.

At any rate, The Wonder Years eventually became available for streaming, because I guess, they went through and replaced the songs deemed too expensive with less expensive ones.

I remember Kevin driving around, singing along to “Respect” in one episode. Now it’s “Bobby’s Girl.”

Now, “Respect” is a better song than “Bobby’s Girl” in my opinion. However, either way, the song is being used as the punchline of a joke, and the joke actually works okay with the replacement song. Also, it’s not like it’s the best or most important joke ever.


It just really deeply bugs me that a piece of art I grew up with had to be changed for no reason other than the people holding the rights to “Respect” must have wanted more money than the people holding the rights to The Wonder Years were willing to give them…

Art existed. It was good. People watched it, enjoyed it, & it meant something to them. A few years later, when they wanted to share it with new people… a whole rigamarole had to be gone through before that was possible, and when it finally became possible, it wasn’t the same.

If you’ve ever been annoyed that George Lucas has made it harder to watch the original versions of the original Star Wars trilogy (Han shot first!) or been annoyed that Neon Genesis Evangelion didn’t have “Fly Me to the Moon” in the credits on Netflix… maybe you get this.

Maybe people wildly disagree. That’s fine. That’s up to them. But for me, I get it when a market asks for perpetual rights to a story, because that market is making something — a sort of mix-tape of stories — and maybe they want that mashup art to keep existing for a long time.

People still read books and plays from hundreds of years ago. Paper copies got protected and preserved… but right now, art happens on webpages. So if a webpage wants perpetual rights, that’s what they probably need in order to have a chance at that kind of immortality.

Anyway, I know some authors have a big problem with selling perpetual rights. And I get that. I’m a stickler about Sunset Clauses, and I’d have a hard time picturing myself EVER selling the entire copyright to a work of mine.

I have my limits. Other authors have theirs.

But my primary concern with my fiction is that I never lose the right to publish it, so when it comes to non-exclusive perpetual rights… yeah, okay. I don’t want to put a time stamp on how long @FurPlanet can keep publishing volumes of ROAR with my stories in them. For example.

To wrap this up, I guess, what we’re really dealing with is that deep down, I’m an extreme radical who would push the button that destroys copyright entirely if I could, in order to get us back to where we have a decent public domain, instead of a lagging, strangled one.

But as long as copyright does exist, and I’m forced to reckon with it in contracts regarding both my fiction and other peoples’, I will err on the side of preserving art. Sometimes this means protecting my stories with Sunset Clauses; sometimes it means perpetual rights.

Anyway, that’s a whole kettle of fish, and not the kind otters would enjoy.

If you feel like tangling with me over these fish in this kettle of mine, keep in mind that I’ve had years to come to my beliefs and already seen so many arguments on this subject.

So, if you don’t like my opinions on this subject, then there’s a good chance I won’t like yours either, and if we aren’t already pretty good friends, there’s a very low chance that much good will come from telling me how wrong I am.

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