Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a GREAT start. A new year brings all types of new predictions. Here, it is no different. As I gaze into my disco ball into the future, these are what I see as the main points that will come to light in the realm of entertainment law and intellectual property law.
Revision of the Copyright Act
My prediction is while the United States desperately needs a revised Copyright Act, we will not see one in 2014. However, I do think the conversations had by people like Maria A Pallante, Register of the U.S. Copyright Office and the advocacy work done by the Copyright Alliance will continue to grow. I also predict that society with the use of social media will become even more attuned to usage and the conversations that are taking place in Washington over this issue.
The last revision of the Copyright Act went into effect in 1976. However, real work began on revising the copyright statute as early as 1955. Your reading was correct – it took them 20 years to reach a consensus. Research shows; however, that even back then the drafters of the new act deliberately decided to not tackle the idea of computers in the 1976 Act. While the 1976 Act has been amended it was still built and structured with a 1950s mentality.
Fast forward to today and society is faced with the same issues. Is the amount of time a copyright can last too long? How is a new act created that is flexible for the ever-changing technological advances? The film industry, music industry and major publishing houses have legions of attorneys to advocate for them, but what role does the ordinary consumer play in all of this? Who advocates for those ordinary consumers? These last few questions are more relevant now than they ever have been before.
It is so simple for any person anywhere to post a video including music with artwork a trademark style and to have that same video shared and viewed millions of times simply over night. Creativity and authors (as defined by the copyright statute) are no longer limited to just those that work daily in the film, literary and music industry – everyone has the potential to become an author. Consumers are the creators and the creators are consumers.
I highly doubt that the drafters of the original Copyright Act back in 1909 could imagine a world where telephones would be portable with the ability to publicly, or privately, play almost any song. Nor, did the drafters of the 1909 Act imagine a world where a mythical web connected people and information was accessible, able to be shared and accessed by any person at any time. Now, there are very real copyright implications to the average person.
So, while Congress balances the budget, deals with the Affordable Health Care Act, debates gay marriage, society will still be left trying to sort out and understand this idea of copyright. I do not see an agreement in 2014; however, I do see the conversation continuing, growing and more interested parties putting in their two cents.
Celebrities and the Harsh Reality
The year 2013 saw the controversy and fallout of reality type celebrities, such as celebrity chef Paula Deen and reality star Phil Robertson. It is my prediction that clauses dictating behaviors, even when not filming, will become stricter and more clearly defined. The “stars” of these programs will be signing away even more rights to be featured in these programs.
Social media advocated and condemned with a vengeance. While most of the social media world shouted and were appalled by the actions of private companies citing the First Amendment and advocating for freedom of speech, the part of the law that was not discussed by the media was contract law. Those are the contractual provisions reality stars signed and the rights they gave away when they legally contracted with those companies to be a star on television. It should be noted that the First Amendment/Freedom of Speech argument that dear Aunt Sally spouted on Facebook while she joined the “I stand With Celebrity of the Week” Facebook group has no legal basis. The First Amendment only protects people against the government squashing speech. In the case of Deen and Robertson, private companies were choosing to reprimand them because of their actions. The First Amendment definitely gives us all the freedom to say what we want, but it certainly does not mean repercussions will not follow from what you have chosen to say. Here, Deen and Robertson felt those repercussions. For a look into how ideas such as this has filtered over to the academic world check out the article Classroom Confidential: Should Professors Have Any Expectation of Email Privacy.
Those repercussions can be felt in a harsher way by breach of contract, if a would-be celebrity signs away and contractually agrees to uphold a certain “image” developed by the company. I would be willing to bet each of those individuals had clauses in their Exclusivity Agreements signed by the companies that outlined (albeit loosely) what was expected of the individual, even when not filming. At the time of signing, I am sure it was viewed as a clause that will really “not become an issue” and something you give up to be on television with the opportunity to become rich and famous. There is lots of money to be made not only by the company who takes the risk, but also by the participants by way of endorsements, publishing, magazines, coffee tumblers, movies and anything else the contract deems “ancillary revenue.” Companies must protect the company’s image, enforce their contracts and protect their ability to make money.
Before social media and the world being so connected 24/7, the company had the type of control it needed. It scheduled when the press releases were sent out. No film or videos went out without the company’s approval. It was simply easier for companies to control a product. With social media snafus, the globalization of news and the ability for people to get access to and create content on anyone at anytime, these companies do not have the type of control they once had. Because of that, I think you will start to see more finely crafted clauses outlining image, control and how the person interacts with the public outside of the company’s control. This will become an even bigger point of contention and one to negotiate.
A Change in Delivery
The end of the year saw Beyoncé delivering her new album directly to her fans and with no prior notice. There was no big buildup marketing campaign. If you wanted it, you had to buy the entire album. You cannot buy just one of the tracks you like for $0.99 on iTunes. What made this great was that it was a nod back to how albums were originally delivered – complete, whole and with the intent to be experienced from beginning to end.
Earlier in the year, a new type of delivery method was tried by Justin Timberlake’s with the release of his new album the 20/20 Experience. It was a two-part album where one was released earlier in 2013 surrounded with much buzz for an additional complimentary album to be released later in 2013. It was the internet urban legend stuff that Twitter, E! News and Justin Timberlake fan sites live for. He also experienced tremendous sales in a time when the music industry still feels some doom and gloom because of piracy.
It is my prediction that in 2014 you will see more musicians, and perhaps even some television shows and film, try different types of delivery methods. They may not deliver exactly like Queen B or Justin, but I think you will see several attempts to try to pull off the success those experienced. It’s an exciting time for big dreamers and new ideas.
What do you think are the next big issues in entertainment and intellectual property? Take part in the conversation below and Stay Tuned In!
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