The Ridiculous Hoops Mad Men Had To Jump Through To Use Part Of A Beatles Song
from the or-how-we-kill-culture dept
Weiner, who says he once met Paul McCartney at a party but didn’t broach the subject of licensing, zeroed in on “Tomorrow Never Knows” last summer, when he got the idea for a story about “how people think they know what the Beatles are. Of course the Beatles are one step ahead of you at least.” That started a process he’d been through before, of sending “impassioned letters” to the band’s representatives, including primary gatekeeper Jeff Jones, head of Apple Corps.But, here's the thing, as the article notes elsewhere, part of the appeal of the show is the very, very, very thorough attention to detail to make everything about the show accurate to the time. In fact, we noted a story (that not everyone agreed was true) that suggested that copyright had gotten in the way of historical realism on the show in the past. But here, as the show's producers noted, the Beatles are such a huge part of the 60s, it's a little crazy that they can't have the music on the show without jumping through this series of hoops. It basically means nobody can accurately depict an important period of cultural history without permission from the band.
This time, as Weiner cleared that initial hurdle, he continued to make his case for placing the Beatles “in a new context” by sharing story outlines and script pages with the team—“things I don’t usually do,” he says. Permission was finally granted based on the merit of the show and his plan for the song, not the amount of money on the table, he says. “The idea is that this is a financial arrangement, there is nothing further from the truth. This is completely an artistic collaboration.”
If anything, it seems like (once again) copyright is being used to stifle culture, rather than to enable and encourage it. It also highlights one of the more ridiculous parts of copyright law: the vast differences in the way different rights and licenses work. If this were merely being performed live in a venue, the venue could get typical ASCAP/BMI licenses and play whatever music they wanted (with a few limitations). But, since it goes on TV, you're suddenly dealing with new issues like sync licenses. That seems silly. If we're going to allow public venues to play whatever they want with a blanket license, why shouldn't that apply equally to a TV show like Mad Men, which is using the music to accurately portray a time?