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Many television shows that have concluded and/or gone off the air have found second lives via streaming services. “Friends” and “Sex & the City,” which both aired their last episodes in 2004, are available on HBO Max. “Seinfeld,” which concluded in 1998, is available on Netflix, and “The Office (U.S.),” which ended in 2013, is available on Peacock. However, as the public enjoys consuming older content on demand, both companies and talent are wrestling with how to interpret older contracts that did not contemplate, or expressly provide for, distribution of content on digital platforms that did not exist at the time that the shows were produced. This challenge is particularly acute when accounting to profit participants whose backend definitions were conceived and drafted in the era of linear television, VHS, and DVD. To that end, a recent case heard by the Superior Court of California asked the question: should digital streaming services be treated more like physical home video or television for purpose of accounting to participants?

This post was originally published on the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal website on October 20, 2021. The original post can be accessed via the Archived Link button above.

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