What are the most notable recent changes and trends in the entertainment business? Not all of the changes are due to our friend the Internet, although that is obviously playing a very big part. Many motion picture industry figures have commented that we are headed to a future of still more big budget movies dominating the marketplace at very high movie ticket prices. Are the big boys and girls of show business going to win the lion’s share of revenue in the future?
The Little Antenna That Went to the Supreme Court
Call it “the little antenna that could.” Remember the classic rabbit ears that topped television sets? Now there is a miniature version that doesn’t look like a rabbit but moves very fast. A new device developed by Aereo, Inc. provides access to live TV online for local channels within a given coverage area. Using an array of tiny dime-sized antennas, the system makes it possible to watch television without a television set. For a rate currently around $8-12 per month, subscribers can view and record live television broadcasts over the Internet through mobile electronic devices. Since its inception in 2010, Aereo’s online television playback system has expanded into 11 major U.S. media markets and garnered the company nearly one hundred million dollars ($100,000,000) in funding. This expansion has also earned the small startup company the enmity of major broadcasters and a date in the U.S. Supreme Court.
There’s a point in evolution when you can say that over evolutionary time Something Big has happened — or even mutated into something dramatic. I believe this week is one such time.
Pretty much any copying, distribution, public performance, or derivation of a copyrighted work (a book, an photo, a motion picture, a song, a website, etc.) without authorization of the copyright holder is copyright infringement. (I say “pretty much,” because some copying is so trivial that’s it is de minimis and doesn’t need a fair use defense. There are also a few specific exemptions from absolute copyright protection with respect to certain photocopying by libraries and for other special situations.) Dominion over a copyright is what a copyright holder gets – a near monopoly over the right to copy. To say it another way, the word “copyright” means it just the way it sounds.
Anyone who has worked in reality TV knows that much behind-the-scenes work can be involved in creating drama and comedy that are lacking in the real lives of reality TV show participants. I’ve represented both reality show producers and reality TV stars, and can say there’s much content in reality shows that is fictitious — or at least constitutes a form of induced reality. For example, participants (in other words, characters) are prodded into being villains or buffoons. They are tricked and trapped, all in the name of good entertainment.
Copyright protects creative expression such as music, books, and computer software. But copyright doesn’t protect everything that’s creative. For example, copyright doesn’t protect short phrases, mere ideas (that’s the job of patents), and “useful articles” (such as automobiles and appliances) no matter how elegant their design may be (with only a couple of exceptions mentioned below). The Copyright Office says: