Cease and desist order? Contract loophole? Probably not. Permission from Beatrice? Almost certainly. I’m sure that an established, respected business like Criterion gets licenses before they start manufacturing and selling movies on disc. And they get these licenses from the people who own the copyright of the movie. With OTHELLO, I think the owner is Beatrice – or at least she is probably one of the co-owners. When Beatrice issued her DVD of OTHELLO in 1992, she had it copyrighted and she and “the estate of Paola Mori” were the listed owners. The “estate of Paola Mori” is presumably defunct at this point in time, and whatever property it had was probably distributed to the heirs of the estate, and maybe Beatrice is now (and was in 1995) the sole owner of the OTHELLO copyright, but in any case, Beatrice’s permission would have been necessary for Criterion to start selling its laser disc of OTHELLO.
I’m not sure about this, but I think Criterion gets licenses that last a certain duration of time and/or that allow Criterion to produce and sell movies in a designated medium – like laser discs. The license, then, is only good for a certain medium and/or a certain amount of time. Perhaps the license to sell OTHELLO expired and/or was limited to the production and sale of the movie on laser disc. I’d bet my bottom dollar that it’s one or both of the two.
But even assuming the license does not allow Criterion to start reselling OTHELLO on DVD, there’s nothing that would stop Criterion from getting another license to do that if Beatrice (the presumed owner) would agree to that arrangement. Why they don’t strike up another deal that would allow Criterion to start selling it on DVD, I don’t know. Maybe now that the Beatrice version is out on DVD, she doesn’t want Criterion to sell a competing disc, which she’d still get a royalty for, but probably not as much as what she gets from the sale of her own DVD. Also, maybe the costs involved in converting the product from laser disc to DVD are substantial enough that Criterion isn’t interested in renegotiating a deal with Beatrice unless the costs in getting a new license are minimal. I don’t know, but I’m sure there are economic reasons why we’re not seeing a Criterion version coming out on DVD.
Personally, I’ve only seen the Beatrice version and I’m forever disappointed to hear that it pales in comparison to the Criterion laser disc. How’s the lip synchronization on the Criterion laser disc next to the Beatrice DVD? I don’t think the synchronization is very good on the DVD, despite all the claimed effort that went into fixing the sync problems. Also, I was surprised to read a Chicago Tribune article from either 1995 or 1996 that stated that the Criterion laser disc has the European version, as opposed to the American version that’s on the Beatrice DVD. Is that correct??
I keep thinking it would be really cool to see a 2-disc DVD come out with the Criterion version on one disc and FILMING OTHELLO on the other disc. What are the odds of that happening? Nothing wrong with day-dreaming is there?