Ledger Vol. 1 – No. 1

Foreign Formats – Licensing Optional?: Why ABC’s “Bombshell” Memo regarding Foreign Formats Isn’t Scandalous at All

by Alexandra Schwartz* A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here. I.  Introduction On June 24, 2008, ABC Executive Vice President Howard Davine wrote a memo to ABC’s executive producers and show-runners which raised eyebrows in the industry when it was leaked. The memo suggested that there may be no need to license a foreign television show (“foreign format”) when all that is being taken from the show is the “underlying premise.” [FN1] He strenuously urged the executive producers and show-runners to first go to ABC’s Creative Affairs group when they had seen or were about to see a show that they were potentially interested in licensing so that ABC could decide, both creatively and legally, whether licensing was truly necessary. Mr. Davine made four main points regarding business reasons that licensing these formats are to the disadvantage of ABC and should be avoided. First, he noted that the foreign format copyright holders will want recognition and seek Executive Producer credit as well as a degree of creative control, typically to be rendered from a foreign location — adding an “unnecessary layer” to the creative process. [FN2] Second, he argued against licensing because there would likely be a decrease in profits from format rights fees and Executive Producer fees as well as the reality that a large portion of the backend [FN3]would have to be shared with the format’s right holder. [FN4] Third, the studio may be limited in its ability to exploit derivative works from the show depending on the stature of the rights holder. Fourth, if a show is licensed, the deal may be dependent upon the studio’s ability to sell the U.S. series internationally without restriction and the interest of the foreign rights holder to sell episodes of their underlying series in the U.S. market — motivations that are often not compatible or economically equivalent. [FN5] More →

Girl Talk, Fair Use, and Three Hundred Twenty-Two Reasons for Copyright Reform

by Brian Pearl* A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here. I. INTRODUCTION Girl Talk is the self-imposed moniker of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based artist Gregg Gillis. Since his first album, “Secret Diary,” [FN1] Gillis’s work has evolved from glitch-heavy electronic music interspersed with pre-existing samples to a collage of the most recognizable (and dance-able) moments from hit songs spanning decades as well as musical genres. [FN2] “Night Ripper,” the third Girl Talk album, pushed Girl Talk out of the underground and onto the pages of magazines including Rolling Stone, Blender, and SPIN. [FN3]Influential taste-maker Pitchfork Media fawned over “Night Ripper,” calling the album a “voracious music fan’s dream: a hulking hyper-mix designed to make you dance.” [FN4] “Night Ripper” also enabled Gillis to accomplish every musician’s goal – quitting his day job. [FN5] More →

A New Model for Music Finance

by Josh Kaplan* A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here. In recent years, the music industry has morphed at an alarming pace. The music label system has failed to evolve with equal speed, and the result is the demise of the music label and its surrounding infrastructure. The music label system has traditionally sold physical records at inflated prices while sharing a very small percentage of such sales with the musician. With the advent of digital music, the utilities that the labels possess have become available to any musician with a good internet connection. A band no longer needs a label to manufacture, promote and distribute its new LP. Today’s indie bands are resourceful, and tap into every free and inexpensive resource readily available. Bands utilize websites, social networking tools, street teams, e-stores and digital distribution companies to “break” into the business. Even still, the band needs one thing to take it to a national or international level: money. More →

Elite Knockoffs and Nascent Designers

By David H. Faux* A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here. I.    Introduction The current debate over increased protection for fashion design is largely focused on a dichotomy: whether additional protection is necessary or if it is actually counter-productive for the industry. This dichotomy is false. The proper contrast is between protection of authorship versus protection of reputation. In short, while elite design houses enjoy some tools for protecting their reputations, beginning designers need legislation that will enable them to enforce rights based on notions of authorship. Underlying this article is the assumption that fashion designs deserve copyright protection. Each design has a unique “character,” [FN1] and expresses a point of view. [FN2] Combine these original expressions with the fact that clothing is a tangible form, and it seems obvious that fashion designs are copyrightable material. More →

Mixed Signals: Takedown but Don’t Filter? A Case for Constructive Authorization

by Victoria Elman and Cindy Abramson* A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here. American author Elaine Scott has recently filed suit against Scribd, alleging that the social publishing website “shamelessly profits” by encouraging Internet users to illegally share copyrighted books online. [FN1] Scribd enables users to upload a variety of written works much like YouTube enables the uploading of video content. [FN2] The content uploaded to the Scribd website is then accessible and downloadable by anyone who becomes a free member of the site.  Scribd claims that its Copyright Management System (“CMS”) goes “beyond the requirements set forth by U.S., UK, and EU law.”[FN3] While the implementation of a copyright filter is not mandated by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), [FN4] it has been encouraged by courts in recent litigation determining Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) liability.[FN5] Despite the fact that courts encourage the use of filters, Scott’s second claim alleges that Scribd’s use of the copyrighted work to filter infringing copies itself constitutes “ongoing and permanent” infringement without permission or compensation to the author. [FN6] On one hand, the suit attacks Scribd for allowing the uploading of infringing works; on the other, it claims that Scribd’s attempts to filter the website of these infringing works without explicit permission from the copyright holders is itself infringing. More →