Wrestling Over Republication Rights: Who Owns the Copyright of Interviews?
46 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2016 Last revised: 22 Mar 2017
Date Written: June 30, 2016
In a society that constantly consumes information — news, celebrity gossip, trends and fashions — the interview is an invaluable mainstay of the information age. Journalists rely on interviews with politicians, celebrities, and intellectuals to draw in readers, who are in turn fascinated by interviews for their insight into the minds and lives of public figures. For such a ubiquitous and pervasive form of journalistic reporting, the law is astonishingly unclear about the copyright ownership of interviews.
Courts have come to several contradictory holdings about the copyright ownership of interviews. Because of this lack of consensus, interviewees are able to chill journalistic speech by claiming a potentially unfounded copyright interest in their interviews, and interviewers are susceptible to interviewee demands of payment for republication rights. Until this issue is settled conclusively, interviewees’ claims of copyright interests in interviews could have serious ramifications for the business practices of journalists, resulting in costly and complicated negotiations that lead to higher transaction costs.
This Note sets forth and analyzes the ways that courts have attempted to deal with the question of interview ownership, and proposes an alternative solution that addresses the interview as a singular, unified work, with copyright ownership based on the concept of “authorship” rather than individual statements made by separate parties.
Note: This Note was chosen as the winner of the 2016 Virginia State Bar Intellectual Property Section writing competition, and the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) Robert C. Watson Award.
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