Copyright Getting In The Way Of Historical Realism On Mad Men [Updated]

from the and-this-helps-who-now? dept

A reader going by the name Known Coward points us to a short NY Post piece on how NB news anchor has joined the crowd of folks who watch the show Mad Men, but get upset about historical inaccuracies in the show, which is supposed to take place in 1964. I’m not quite sure how interesting a story that really is, but there was one part of it that might be interesting to folks around here. One of the inaccuracies that upset Williams was the fact that the character of Don Draper was seen watching an NFL football game on a Saturday night. Indeed, the NY Post notes that prime-time NFL football didn’t begin until 1970. Where it gets interesting is the reason given by the producers of the show:

Turns out the producers originally wanted to show Don viewing a hockey game between the New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs, but couldn’t get rights, according to a report yesterday in the Los Angeles Times.

Instead, producers substituted audio of a football game, thinking it would blend into the background.

And, of course, this raises the question of what harm is done to the NHL if the show had actually used the more accurate hockey footage, rather than the football broadcast? How does this, in any way, fit into the realm of “promoting the progress”?

Update: In response to this article, the NHL is calling an offside penalty, saying that it received no such request to use the footage of the Rangers/Leafs game. So… perhaps this isn’t a copyright issue at all, but Mad Men producers trying to hide a mistake in historical reality?

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Comments on “Copyright Getting In The Way Of Historical Realism On Mad Men [Updated]”

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20 Comments
MrWilson says:

I understand the trademark issues when manufacturers don’t want writers using their brand names as product names, like Kleenex instead of tissue. There’s a legitimate issue with genericized trademarks (as far as trademark law is concerned, at least).

But how would using NHL content in this context be harmful? You’d think it would be beneficial even. It’s like Andy Warhol bringing attention to Campbell’s soup. It’s like a fan movie for a particular franchise making people want to see a professional movie.

Apparently everyone is supposed to pretend that brand name products don’t exist in the real world. That could make for an interesting science fiction movie, though. We’re also apparently supposed to learn while not copying or imitating or referencing other works. We’re supposed to be creative in a vacuum.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“But that would require a large media conglomerate to risk having to defend the merits of fair use.”

Yeah, it’s weird that they’re more than happy to play offense, but tremble at the thought of playing defense.

I guess that’s because the fixed costs (lawyers) are roughly the same either way, but there’s a potential windfall (judgement) that only works one in the offense’s favor. If there was a law that said that if the plaintiff loses they have to pay the defendant the amount they were seeking from them, we might see a different environment.

Phil says:

Doesn't the NHL need advertising?

The NHL has long been in 4th place among American professional sports, behind the NFL, NBA and MLB. If you count college football, then it’s in 5th place. The 2010 Stanley Cup received the highest ratings for hockey in US history, yet still by comparison it’s US ratings were far surpassed by the World Cup, which was heretofore hardly in the conversation.
Why isn’t the NHL attracted to the idea of placing their product in a show with a historic perspective. Shouldn’t they try to give the impression that the NHL is a venerated institution with a long history in the American fabric, and that American guys have always watched hockey on Saturday nights. Why wouldn’t an advertiser think about this the same way baseball wants you to associate themselves with apple pie. Baseball wants you to believe they are a hallowed part of the American tradition. Perhaps the producers of this show should have asked the NHL for product placement money instead.

But then, maybe this kind of thinking is another reason why the NHL trails other sports.

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