Why Buy Movie Rights From Newspapers?
from the misunderstanding-copyrights? dept
It’s no secret that many people have trouble understanding intellectual property law. It’s quite common for us to see situations where people get mixed up about the differences between patents, trademarks and copyrights. What it usually comes down to, though, are people who want to claim ownership over as much as they can. With patents, we see this in obvious claims being granted. With trademarks, it’s often about companies wanting to believe they have complete control over the use of their brand — rather than just in situations where it would cause confusion. With copyrights, it’s most often seen in attempts to copyright facts. Sometimes, people just like to claim control for the hell of it — such as the recent case accusing Dan Brown of “stealing” the idea for his novel from a work of discredited non-fiction. Copyright is just designed to protect the specific work — not the idea behind it. It’s certainly not designed to give anyone ownership of facts. With that in mind, Tim Wu (guest blogging at Larry Lessig’s site) is wondering why a movie studio would purchase the “rights” to a particular news story. Apparently, it happens all the time — though, as Wu points out, the newspaper has no real ownership over the story, just the specific writeup they did. The facts of the story are facts — and could be used by anyone to create a movie without having to pay the newspaper. Is it just a case of the movie studios misunderstanding copyrights? Wu has a few ideas, but is looking for more suggestions. His idea is that it’s not particularly expensive and it could help prevent a bogus lawsuit (even if that lawsuit would get thrown out). His second thought was that it’s a signaling method. Studios may use the purchase of “rights” to let other studios know that they’re making a film based on that story, and others should stay away. The movie studios themselves would probably claim that it’s to demonstrate how much they support intellectual property — but many would suggest the idea of Hollywood doing much on moral grounds seems unlikely. Anyone else have any suggestions?