Does intellectual property have a gray area?

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Does intellectual property have a gray area?

I want to create a for-profit streaming service that has all of the worlds animated content on it. The only worry I have is the legality of it all we would need to offer a subscription based service alongside providing the content for free. All I need to know to move forward is if its possible to legally stream intellectual property with the promise that wed pay them back once things start rolling. Are there any options available to prevent a cease and desist order by the large conglomerates? Could we do something like donate all of the money we make to charity? What if we pool all the estimated earnings into a separate account and then pay all that money to the rightful owners? Do I need to construct a business offer and send it to every studio stating my terms? I seriously doubt theyd listen to me when there are already paid services out there. What about having 2 websites where the main one links to a pirated one? Honestly, this whole mess is bogus. All I want to do is breathe new life into the industry and due to the nature of exclusive license rights its preventing anyone from making any new innovations at all. The laws in place are preventing them from making money. Another problem I have is money. Its a catch 22 I cant get any investors or workers on board until I know my vision is possible so it’d be a waste of time trying to setting up a business licence. Besides, buying out exclusive licenses would be incredibly expensive and unfair. The entire industry has basically shot itself in the foot more than 90 of the consumer base pirates the content.

Asked on May 1, 2018 under Business Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

There is no gray area like you describe: the owner of intellectual property (such as copyright or trademark) has an absolute right to prevent any other commercial use (or indeed any use at all, apart from a few very narrow exceptions, like in news reporting or legitimate satire) of their content; that means you may not use the content without the owner's permission. Promising to pay later, donating money to charity, etc. will not legally let you use other's content without their permission, and they could not only legally (i.e. via lawsuit) force you to cease and desist, but also sue you for monetary compensation (e.g. the fair value of the use you made of their content).  Don't confuse legal rights with good business: people may enforce their rights even when it's a dumb idea to do so. You may have an idea to build a tremendously profitable mixed use building on some struggling farmer's plot of land and be willing to pay him more than he'd make in 20 years for the land--but as the owner of the land, he still has the right to say "no." Similarly, content owners can control the use of their content, even if you feel that in doing so, they are being shortsighted or stupid.


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