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Judas Priest Suicide Documentary, ‘Dream Deceivers’ Finally Released on DVD

Judas Priest
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

In 1985, the suicide of a Judas Priest fan prompted a lawsuit over whether or not the band’s lyrics were responsible for his death. The 1992 documentary about the trial, ‘Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James Vance vs. Judas Priest,’ has finally been issued on DVD.

As it turns out, the delay was caused by the difficulties involved in clearing all the music and lyrics in the movie for home video. While director David Van Taylor had obtained licenses to use the songs crucial to the story for the film, the Center for Media & Social Impact says that transferring it to home video proved to be a headache because Sony felt that it would compete with a Judas Priest video compilation.

However, in 2005, Van Taylor and others created the ‘Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use,’ a good-faith effort to define how to use copyrighted works without the need for licensing. The “fair use” doctrine allows U.S. copyright law to be legally skirted, provided it can be proven that the new work serves a purpose, such as criticism, news reporting or classroom education.

‘Dream Deceivers’ told the story of two young men, James Vance and Ray Belknap, who entered into a suicide pact. Vance initially survived — he died in 1988 — but told attorneys that they had been listening to Judas Priest and gotten subliminal messages from the music telling them to killing themselves. The families entered a civil suit against the band, which was dismissed.

Between the playing of the songs backwards and the recitiation of the lyrics in court, ‘Dream Deceivers’ used a considerable amount of Judas Priest’s music. But thanks to the efforts of Van Taylor, the question of what constitutes fair use in a documentary has swung in his favor, allowing the release of the DVD.

“So much of what I cleared back in 1992 was absurd to clear,” he said, “and now the film seems like such a slam dunk for fair use. We have no qualms. For years I’ve felt honored to take part in the fair-use revolution, which has accomplished so much for documentarians. To bring “Dream Deceivers” back to the public finally — and to shout its fair-use bona fides from the rooftops — seems like a perfect ending to the story.”

Next: Read About the Judas Priest Trial

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