HBO’s IP woes

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The American television company HBO has been in the news recently with its interaction on both sides of trademark and copyright law. On the one hand, HBO’s new one hour drama Vinyl is under fire after a lawsuit was launched by 1970s Hip-Hop icon DJ Kool Herc. Kool Herc was offered $10,000 to waive rights to his image before the show was filmed, but declined the offer. The show, co-produced by the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and director Martin Scorcese, used Kool Herc’s name, identity, and voice in an episode of the show intended to show the rise of Hip-Hop in the underground of New York City under the noses of music executives.

On the flip side, HBO has used copyright law to repeatedly block a YouTuber based in Spain from broadcasting on the Internet site after the user spent some of his most recent videos providing spoilers for upcoming Game of Throne episodes. This has enraged some viewers and YouTube viewers, as no direct images from the series are used in the videos, however some attorneys have intimated this may be a natural extension of the site’s DMCA copyright protection request system.

Vinyl, as a series, focuses on a myriad of legal complexities and story-lines, ranging from contract disputes to white collar crime to murder. The eccentricities and envelope-pushing of the music industry is constantly coming up against the rule of law, which appears to be the only thing that can keep the show’s characters from running right off the rails. Both situations appear to be headed towards precedent setting decisions, assuming the cases move forward, and are interesting examples of how a company can be busy fighting both sides of a legal issue at any given point in time.

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