Wednesday, February 15, 2006
GREASE is no longer the word!
Royal Caribbean cruises is being sued by the copyright holder for the musical Grease for copyright infringement. Evidently, the cruise company has been putting on the musical on its cruise ships for years, without getting a license from the copyright holder. I thought this quote from the article was pretty telling: "His first thought, he said, was "Do we get paid for this?" His second: "Shouldn't I at least get some free pancakes?" Okay, that's what this is all about, isn't it? It's about getting something for nothing. The musical itself has been around for over thirty years. The original Copyright Act (in 1790) provided for a 14 year term limit of copyright, renewable once for 14 years. The term has since been extended to 95 years. But is there any real justification for this? I remember growing up as a kid, doing the "hand jive." I remember singing "Summer Nights" at bar and bat mitzvahs. The point is that the musical Grease is a part of our cultural dialogue. It has been more than thirty years since the musical was written (actually, probably about 35 years). Is there any need to have a copyright law that allows monopoly rights of our culture for 95 years? Furthermore, this lawsuit has very key implications. Namely, whether the jurisdiction of American courts over our copyright applies to the sea. There already is a WIPO treaty, but as far as I know, it does not extend to international waters. American intellectual property is actually a key concern in foreign countries that have become inundated with Hollywood. America likes to claim there is no UN and there is no international law when it suits them - but they're first to claim copyright and patent protection. Repressive patent laws are contributing to the high cost of AIDS medication - which contributes to the death of millions in SubSaharan Africa. Greed is often at the core of these suits. After all...everyone wants those free pancakes.