I just saw this article complaining that watching the original edition at this point is in many ways outside the law.
As time has gone on, the constantly re-made "special editions" have diverged more and more from the original source, and it's become harder and harder to get the original editions.
The general attitude is that this is just some naive thoughtlessness by George Lucas, who sees no value in authenticity. I don't know exactly what Lucas thinks, nor is his intent in the matter king, but he clearly has fairly sophisticated views on the matter.
Lucas giving testimony to Congress on the importance of not altering hold films.
People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society. The preservation of our cultural heritage may not seem to be as politically sensitive an issue as “when life begins” or “when it should be appropriately terminated,” but it is important because it goes to the heart of what sets mankind apart. Creative expression is at the core of our humanness. Art is a distinctly human endeavor. We must have respect for it if we are to have any respect for the human race.
These current defacements are just the beginning. Today, engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tomorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with “fresher faces,” or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor’s lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new “original” negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires. The copyright holders, so far, have not been completely diligent in preserving the original negatives of films they control. In order to reconstruct old negatives, many archivists have had to go to Eastern bloc countries where American films have been better preserved.
In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be “replaced” by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.
There is nothing to stop American films, records, books, and paintings from being sold to a foreign entity or egotistical gangsters and having them change our cultural heritage to suit their personal taste.
The man has thought about this issue.
And his reaction, with his most famous franchise, was as far as I could tell, to heighten the contradictions. The special editions continue their evolution becoming more and more detached, not representing a specific year but representing the ever-changing "now", while the originals become the province of pirates and rebels.
To which the only reasonable response is "Well, yeah, have you seen the movies?"