Amazon to sell National Archives films

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WASHINGTON-- The public will be able to purchase copies of thousands of historic films and videotapes via the Internet under an agreement the National Archives has reached with Amazon.com Inc. and one of its subsidiaries.

The non-exclusive arrangement allows Amazon and CustomFlix Labs Inc. to make digitized copies of some footage and make it available in DVD form. The DVDs will sell for $19.99 on Amazon.com and will be manufactured at CustomFlix's facility in Scotts Valley, Calif.

The National Archives will receive the digitized "preservation" copy of all the footage CustomFlix processes, Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said.

The Archives will initially make its collection of Universal Newsreels, dating from 1920 to 1967, available for purchase. Thousands of other public domain and government films will be made available later, officials said.

"While the public can come to our College Park, Md., research room to view films and even copy them at no charge, this new program will make our holdings much more accessible to millions of people who cannot travel to the Washington, D.C. area," Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein said in a statement.

The first six DVDs are already selling on Amazon.com, said Stacey Hurwitz, a spokeswoman for CustomFlix.

The newsreels include scenes of the famous 1959 "Kitchen Debate" between then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in a model American kitchen on display in Moscow. Other footage shows a youthful Fidel Castro after the communist revolution in Cuba, along with reports about Hawaii becoming a state.

Newsreels that will become available later include coverage of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the end of World War II, and the and the royal wedding of Princess Margaret.

"The National Archives and Records Administration houses an amazing collection of motion picture titles that historically have been hard for the general public to access," said Dana LoPiccolo-Giles, co-founder and managing director of CustomFlix Labs. "Our DVD on Demand service will make these titles readily available for purchase."

Archives and CustomFlix officials stressed that the agreement is non-exclusive, unlike the controversial semi-exclusive deal the Smithsonian Institution recently struck with the cable television network Showtime.

That deal upset filmmakers who said it was improper to require documentarians using Smithsonian materials to offer their work first to Showtime.
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