Licensing to Kill

By Hoberman, J. | Artforum International, November 1995 | Go to article overview

Licensing to Kill


Hoberman, J., Artforum International


BY THE TIME A JURY of his peers declared O.J. Simpson not guilty last month, his long-running "first"(?) trial had cost California taxpayers upwards of $8.3 million while generating programming so astonishingly popular it supported several cable channels for most of 1995. The afternoon soaps, meanwhile, lost more than a million households since the beginning of the trial.

Talk about your state-subsidized art. More than a trial-of-the-century event or a sociosemiotic sign test, the O.J. show was a cultural dynamo - spinning off all manner of new stars, celebs, and entrepreneurs, not to mention a host of best-sellers, T-shirts, softcore porn films, bumper stickers, and Routledge anthologies. What's astonishing, given the trial's Hollywood location, is that cash-strapped California never attempted to privatize the event - particularly in consideration of its potential sequels, and Menendez II, the follow-up to Court TV's first blockbuster.

It's clearly time for America to negotiate a new contract with itself, presumably to be handled by Mike Ovitz: 1. The American People shall be empowered to assign exclusive cable and television rights to any and all criminal proceedings. Further, acting on behalf of all participants, the American People shall receive, in perpetuity, 10 percent of all royalties derived from any subsequent movies, books, and paid interviews referring to the criminal proceedings in any way. The American People shall further reserve the right to license all ancillary products and, at the conclusion of the trial, retain exclusive rights to sell any and all evidence as collectibles.

Note: In a society of victims, crime belongs to the people. Let federal agents start acting like agents. 2. The American People shall retain the right to assign exclusive cable and television rights to any and all national elections. In order to maximize profits, it may prove feasible to structure the season in terms of a spring primary "regular season" and fall election "play-offs." (The Democrats and Republicans would be free, of course, to cut their own network deals for their respective conventions.) The possibility of the president signing an exclusive deal with a particular network, much as certain former government officials have done, should also be explored. Moreover, as with criminal trials, the American People shall receive in perpetuity 10 percent of all royalties derived from any subsequent movies, books, and paid interviews - before taxes.

Note: To secure this source of revenue, it is crucial to encourage greater citizen-viewer interest in C-span. Congressional proceedings would be enlivened by requiring senators and representatives to suit up in team uniforms before taking the floor. …

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