Archive for the ‘Copyrights’ Category

Service of Intellectual Property—in Theater Too?

Monday, March 20th, 2023


Zurich, Switzerland. Image by Jörg Vieli from Pixabay 

I rented office space for a decade from a law firm that specialized in intellectual property. It’s big business. For years I represented brands belonging to a corporation in the top 100 of the Fortune 500 list and one of the first things I learned was how to refer to the corporate name–there was only one way, no “the” or “corporation.”

Friends who directed organizations such as the International Linen Association in addition to promoting the fabric watched out for inappropriate linen references. One example might be a textile using the color “linen” when the fabric was made of cotton or calling a line “Linen,” when it was made to look like it but was polyester.

More recently, The New York Times reported “David Stärkle, who oversees the enforcement of the Swissness legislation for the Swiss government, said that it would be misleading for Toblerone to continue to include an image of the Matterhorn, a symbol of Switzerland, on its packaging when some of its production was happening outside the country.” The wording on the packaging of the sweet treat—first made 115 years ago in Bern—will also change. It will now reference its founding in the country but will no longer be “Toblerone of Switzerland.”

Champagne can’t be used on a bottle by an adjacent region of France even if the product is as delicious and bubbly.

I get all these examples. The next one not so much.

After the movie musical “RRR” won the Oscar for the Best Original Song “Naatu Naatu” there was a kerfuffle by some about the performance on stage March 12. According to Yahoo News, even though the singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava were Indians, none of the dancers were of South Asian descent nor were American choreographers Napolean & Tabitha Dumo. Lead dancers at the ceremony were Billy Mustapha who is Lebanese Canadian and Jason Glover, American.

According to Yahoo, “The two lead dancers in the song Ram Charan and Jr NTR did not perform on the award night….. Jr NTR told The Juggernaut the original actors didn’t want to take part in the performance to keep the focus on the singers.”

I saw the performance and it and the music were riveting. Check with my friends: I texted in real time that it was my choice to win. I didn’t think about who did what any more than I would have about the nationality of the actors in any show.

If the execution is superb, who cares? In fact, I most admire the famous actors who so convincingly become their characters I forget they are there. One was Robert Morse in “Tru” where he played Truman Capote. Morse was heterosexual and Jewish. Capote was neither. So? Another was Billy Crystal when he became his aunt standing on a Broadway stage with no props or costumes in “700 Sundays.”

I understand the business reasons for intellectual property. But I think that it is a shame when such specificity intrudes on theater. How many high school, college and amateur productions will be constrained should such thinking take hold? If there aren’t enough Jewish children in a class does that mean that “Fiddler on the Roof” is off the table? Did people squawk when Paul Newman played the lead in “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” about a conservative country club couple in Kansas City in the ‘30s and ‘40s? Your thoughts?


Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

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