Most people assume that when they watch an online video of a musical, they aren’t hurting anyone, though that isn’t entirely true. Even the biggest Broadway shows here in New York were created by artists who put a great deal of work into this form of entertainment. Watching an online, or a “bootleg,” copy of a show is a violation of copyright law, as artists deserve to financially benefit from their artistic creations. Many industry leaders agree and to that end, the U.S. Copyright Office recently implored lawmakers to strengthen copyright laws to protect Broadway shows and reduce the number of Broadway bootlegs available online.
In the past, it has been the responsibility of copyright owners to report and monitor the usage of musicals online. With the advancement of the internet, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to do so. Many complain that even though systems exist to report online bootlegs of musicals, it is far too easy for those bootlegs to be reposted once they’ve been removed. Before now, online platforms such as YouTube were not liable for bootlegs posted to their sites. The U.S Copyright Office wants to change that.
Representatives want lawmakers to consider making websites responsible for illegal content by mandating that the sites terminate accounts of repeat offenders, both those posting the videos and those that subscribe to them. They will also need to determine how they will prevent violators from simply making new accounts. Courts say that these and other terms will have to be determined before these changes can become law.
It’s not only successful Broadway shows that have to deal with pirated versions of creative works, but other entertainers as well. Violating copyright law by posting bootlegs online may seem harmless, but it is essentially taking money out of the pockets of artists. Those here in New York who have questions about how copyright can help protect their creations may want to work with attorney with significant experience in this complicated area of the law.