Will changes on tap for Hulu impact California television studios?

| Mar 25, 2013 | Copyright Law

California is arguably the seat of the U.S. entertainment industry, so copyright — the intellectual property means of protecting movies, books, movies and other media — is quite important to many of our biggest home-grown companies.

Because we work with intellectual property clients, we have watched with interest as the entertainment industry and the intellectual property field have acclimatized themselves to 21st century technologies. It has not always been a smooth transition; think of the music industry, online piracy and iTunes, for example.

The latest example of how difficult it can be for media companies to maximize intellectual property protections in our Internet-based entertainment landscape comes from Hulu, the Los-Angeles website that lets viewers watch TV shows on-demand.

Hulu has become a crucial fixture of the television industry. Younger audiences reject the broadcast model, which requires them to watch a show at a given time, and vastly prefer taking in “Modern Family” or “Family Guy” when it suits their schedule, not a network’s.

However, Hulu is jointly owned by ABC, NBC and FOX, and getting these three competing network to agree on things like copyright, customer access and free v. paid models has been difficult. ABC, for example, thinks it is crucial to give away content for free so audiences are large and thus attractive to advertisers, but FOX seems to think users ought to pay for content, which, after all, is expensive to produce.

Now, Disney (which owns ABC) is considering buying out FOX’s portion of the website. That, along with a change-up in leadership at Hulu, might throw the site’s delicate balance out of whack once again.

If you are in an industry that is changing as rapidly as the entertainment field is, it can be very useful to develop a relationship with an attorney who stays abreast of your arena’s important developments. He or she can be a very valuable ally.

Source: The Associated Press, “Disney, News Corp. ‘finalizing’ plans for Hulu,” Ryan Nakashima, March 15, 2013

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