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December 16, 2004
Who'd Buy the Public Domain for a Dollar?
Apparently a lot of bargain shoppers, according to USA Today (Hot off the shelf: DVDs for a dollar):
According to Videoscan, the national point-of-sale tracking service, last week, 19 of the 50 top-selling DVDs were dollar DVDs from Genius Products, a leading supplier of budget videos. Compilation discs of Popeye cartoons and The Lucy Show episodes came in at No. 17 and No. 18, right below the Star Wars Trilogy and Dawn of the Dead [I suppose they mean the recent remake, not the original, which is also in the public domain].
And trip on this:
"We get letters all the time from people, thanking us for making this great stuff available at such a low price," says Howard Balaban of Genius Products. "It's mind-boggling."
Gosh, I wonder if there would be a market to have these works delivered straight to your TiVo via a BitTorrent hybrid?
Most dollar-DVD titles are in the public domain, which means the copyright has expired and has not been renewed. That makes them cheap to put on DVD.
The dollar-DVD market arrives after a steady decline in DVD prices across the board. Hot new theatrical releases routinely sell for less than $15 their first week of release, about half what they were going for when the format was launched in 1997. The drop-in prices for older films is even more pronounced: Wal-Mart has huge "dump bins" in its high-traffic aisles filled with DVDs selling for $5.88.
Given the cost of printing the box, stamping the DVD and shipping them all over the US, is there really that much of a price difference between public domain and the older films in the "dump bins"? Searching through those bins for something you are interested in takes time. How much would people pay to have them readily available at the press of a button on the remote?
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