“(The person who owned them) was a fanatic about ‘I Dream of Jeannie,’” Stockinger, who lives in Evansville, Indiana, recalled. “He had every show 20 times or more, mostly with commercials. … There’s nothing more exciting than when you get those tapes and put them in your machine and see they’re exactly what you’re looking for.”
Though Klein has put thousands of clips online, he is wary of uploading some of his discoveries.
On a recent afternoon, he loaded his U-matic machine with a still-vibrant Donald Duck cartoon that aired in 1975, complete with commercials for Hi-C (“It’s the sensible drink!”) and the long-extinct Ford Granada. He said, though, that he probably wouldn’t make it public for fear of tangling with Disney.
“It’s probably going to be instantly blocked or flagged,” he said. “Money changes everything, of course.”
Copyright concerns have limited online access to old television programs. The Library of Congress, whose 1.7 million reels of film and videotape is the largest collection in the world, generally requires scholars to view its trove in person. Other archives have similar policies.
Still, countless old shows and commercials are on already on YouTube, and Quigley said the enthusiasts who upload them are performing “a great public service” that cautious, rule-bound archives can’t provide.
“Collectors can push the envelope a little more in getting stuff out there,” he said.
Klein has had disputes with WGN, the channel on which Bozo aired, and it has asked him to remove some clips. But they have reached a detente in recent years.
WGN programming specialist George Pappas said the station has chosen to overlook some Bozo videos on Klein’s site, while Klein alerted WGN to a Bozo episode in the archives of the University of Georgia, which received it as an entry for the 1971 Peabody Awards. The station ended up running a special on the episode, Pappas said.