Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Movie Spoilers & Copyright Law

In light of this post: ---spoiler alert---

Clint Eastwood's new film, Million Dollar Baby, has led to some controversy in the United States. That is, right-wingers have trashed it for its subject matter: assisted suicide, which they label as (left-wing Hollywood) propaganda for euthanasia. In Holland euthanasia has been regulated to some extent, though is still the subject of much controversy (not the least raised in foreign countries with foreign mind-sets, if one can have such on this issue). I won't bother you with it, as it is not the subject of this interesting article Julie Hilden at Findlaw: The Controversy Over Politically-Motivated "Million Dollar Baby" Spoilers: Do They Violate Copyright Law By Destroying Market Demand For the Movie?

The title covers the article pretty much. Let me add a little spoiler, one which Hilden would find legitimate, by saying that she does not think the spoilers to be copyright violations, but that she does think that they can be labeled as anti-First Amendment. Unfortunately this thought is constructed in the last paragraph and too little developed to be totally convincing. Still, an interesting read.


Anonymous mark said...

Certainly interesting. Note that Limbaugh-fans (http://talkshows.about.com/cs/rushlimbaugh/tp/fangifts.htm) could argue that the reviews are pro-first amendment. They warn them that they shouldn't expect an all American female Rocky, but will be confronted with in their eyes immoral behaviour (without the moviemaker condemning this, the unthinkable horror....). Maybe a legal basis could be found in tort (our Dutch 'onrechtmatige daad'), but I think more structural and intentional spoiling the market should be proven.

23/2/05 10:14  
Blogger Rik Lambers said...

Mark, I take your notion, and agree. The First Amendment twist of the article is weak, and more legal opininon than legal argument. Autonomy in choosing also implies the autonomy in not-choosing, and the movie subject of attempted suicide (euthanasia) can be considered an essential factor in this (informed) choice. The spoiler also is the essence of the choice here. Though, outside legal argumentation, one might wonder if Limbaugh fans actually would make the choice themselves or follow their idol without making any considerations (as many fans/groupies, left or right, might do).

Tort would be something else, and under Dutch law the argumentation would be that the spoiler goes against what is right to the "societal norms" according to unwritten law. This would provide a (very) weak basis, I think. Structural spoiling might help, but I doubt it.

24/2/05 03:59  

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