Music Licensing Rights Hindering Hulu As Well

from the live-by-copyright,-die-by-copyright dept

The main backers of the online video site Hulu, NBC Universal and News Corp., are two of the stronger supporters of our copyright system, and have, at times, been known to push to make it even more stringent in order to "protect" their works. So, it's interesting to see them discovering that draconian copyright rules can come back and bite them as well. We were just covering some of the problems various TV shows have had being put on DVD due to licensing problems, and now it appears those same problems are making it difficult to get some shows up on Hulu -- despite the fact producers would like those shows online.

One of our readers, named Mark, wrote in to let us know that he and his wife had been watching the old TV show The Pretender on Hulu, when they realized that some of the episodes were simply missing (including the entire final season). He wrote to Hulu to ask why, and was told:
"Thank for letting us know that some episodes from The Pretender appear to be missing from our lineup. Individual episodes are sometimes held up due to rights issues, quite often related to music used in the show - and that's the case this time - some of the music in episodes 17 and 18 couldn't be cleared for online streaming. We'll continue to request them from our content partner, but at this time we can't offer them though we'd love to."
It's still difficult to understand why we would ever design copyright law and licensing policy in this manner. After all, having certain songs included in a TV show is never going to hurt the commercial viability of a song.

Filed Under: hulu, licensing
Companies: hulu


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  1. identicon
    Mark Blafkin, 28 Jan 2009 @ 10:10am

    A little more complicated than You're making it out to be...

    We can all get frustrated with examples like this, but to simply blame copyright law and all its excesses misses the point, particularly on this issue.

    The problem here is NOT copyright law, but the emergence of new markets and the contracts that are signed around music.

    At the time when shows like the Pretender were hitting the airwaves, there was general movement toward featuring pop music in episodes. Cross marketing if you will. However, the concept of DVD sales of episodic content was NOT a significant issue when those contracts were negotiated. Translation, those rights were not granted to the producers of the TV show. Now that DVD sales and internet streaming are widespread and profitable, the producers are rushing to get sign new contracts with those artists, or, in some cases replacing the music in the DVD versions of the episodes (I remember reading a few articles about this with the DVD's for Smallville). I'm guessing the new deals television producers draft include provisions for DVD and online viewing.

    To make matters worse, for any one piece of music, there are often several rights holders (musician, producer, song writer, etc.), which makes licensing a true challenge.

    There are plenty of reasons to complain about the excesses of copyright law, but this isn't really one of them. Yes it's annoying, but I bet it is a short term problem created by the rapid adoption of new technologies and short-sighted (or cleverly far-sighted) contract writing.

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