Re: Silent Film Distributors - Tom Dunahoo and Duping

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: alt.movies.silent
Date: Tuesday, December 02, 1997 11:07 PM

Bobster123 <> wrote in article
<>… Regarding Thunderbird Film's owner,
> Just what did Tom Dunahoo go to prison for? Is he still
> there/around?

He went for child molesting. He was released about ten years ago. Last I heard, he was part of a religious organization.

> About three years ago, I called Morcraft after seeing their ad in THE BIG REEL.
> The guy I talked to said he was looking into releasing more Thunderbird titles
> on video. Was wondering recently whatever happened to them.

I got the idea that Morcraft didn't do much video business. I visited Morcraft a couple of times circa 1987, and what came across was that they were making 16mm prints of features for television stations, but it should be obvious that once such prints were in circulation, broadcast-caliber tapes would be made from them and that the business would dry up. It also seems to have happened that public domain distributors to television found much more 35mm source material.

> Thunderbird was
> a really hot and cold company. Sometimes you'd get a fabulous print- other
> times it would be unwatchable. A lot seemed to have to do with their lab work,
> which I believe was done in-house.

Some was in-house, some not. In one of the 1970s catalog, Tom reported about his experiences with outside labs and what he was doing about the bad experiences.

> Niles had an excellent collection of Our Gang silents, though. I often
> wondered why they offered such a big selection, and Blackhawk (who had the
> rights to the copyrighted Our Gang titles) didn't.

Sales figures, presumably.

> Was Niles duping Blackhawk prints this way illegal? I mean, I know the films
> themselves were public domain, but didn't Blackhawk copyright their own
> releases of them? Or is it legal just as long as the Blackhawk logo isn't
> used?

Niles duping Blackhawk, from a legal standpoint, shouldn't be any different than Blackhawk copying from the original studio's materials. Blackhawk could claim ownership of their historical introduction titles (although I can't recall their copyrighting them) or translations of intertitles originally (or found) in a foreign language (and Blackhawk did so), but as for "their releases" of 16mm and 8mm copies of what were originally 35mm films, these are not eligible for copyright. The copyright law is clear on mere quirks of mechanical reproduction not constituting grounds for copyright protection. Therefore, Blackhawk might recognize their print had been copied as a result of a tell-tale scratch or from frames missing some emulsion in specific locations, but such unique aspects of a print do not constitute creative expression and therefore cannot be copyrighted separately.

--David Hayes


Return to Table of Contents

Go to next article