Tag Archives: television

Copyright Law – Are Artists Asking For More Than Their Fair Share?

This from TechDirt:

The main backers of the online video site Hulu, NBC Universal and News Corp., are two of the stronger supporters of our copyright system, and have, at times, been known to push to make it even more stringent in order to “protect” their works. So, it’s interesting to see them discovering that draconian copyright rules can come back and bite them as well. We were just covering some of the problems various TV shows have had being put on DVD due to licensing problems, and now it appears those same problems are making it difficult to get some shows up on Hulu — despite the fact producers would like those shows online.

One of our readers, named Mark, wrote in to let us know that he and his wife had been watching the old TV show The Pretender on Hulu, when they realized that some of the episodes were simply missing (including the entire final season). He wrote to Hulu to ask why, and was told:

“Thank for letting us know that some episodes from The Pretender appear to be missing from our lineup. Individual episodes are sometimes held up due to rights issues, quite often related to music used in the show – and that’s the case this time – some of the music in episodes 17 and 18 couldn’t be cleared for online streaming. We’ll continue to request them from our content partner, but at this time we can’t offer them though we’d love to.”

It’s still difficult to understand why we would ever design copyright law and licensing policy in this manner. After all, having certain songs included in a TV show is never going to hurt the commercial viability of a song.

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The question being asked by many non-musicians and non-artists consumers (mostly who just want to buy the complete season of CSI on DVD) is this: are musicians and composers asking too much to be paid each time their song is aired in a TV show? If a piece of clothing is sold, for example Ben buys a shirt, the clothing designer only get paid once, even though the shirt may be worn hundreds of times by Ben. So why should a song in a TV show generate a royalty for each broadcast and subsequent DVD of the same show? Should composers be paid once, up front, for the usage, and then let that be it? What about when the TV show get’s put on DVD? Is it the same product still? Are artists and copyright law correct in demanding additional compensation? Do the laws need to be changed?

I, for one, am a proponent of intellectual property rights. A copyright owner should be able to sell and license a work as he or she sees fit. If a consumer cannot afford the cost of one artist’s work, move on to the next offer, or write your own song. An artist should be compensated for the time and expertise it took to create such a high-demand piece of art. If TV networks are unwilling to pay the cost of licensing, they have the ability to move to the next option on the affordability chain. It’s their responsibility to balance cost against the demand of their audience.