How the Midterm Elections Will Affect Hollywood

Grassley Main - P 2014

Grassley Main - P 2014

Despite a Democratic trouncing, industry issues could get a boost

This story first appeared in the Nov. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

No one will count Hollywood as a winner  in the 2014 midterm elections. Not after Team Katzenberg poured tens of millions of dollars toward retaining the U.S. Senate for Democrats, only to see the map turn a brighter shade of red. Still, a Republican takeover of the chamber offers some advantages to the entertainment industry.

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Stymied by labor interests, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will see a much greater chance of passage after Congress grants President Obama "fast-track promotional authority" on the free-trade agreement among the U.S., Canada, Mexico and nine other Pacific Rim nations. The treaty has been dubbed a "Hollywood wish list" by one Washington Post columnist, though that's probably a slight exaggeration. Nonetheless, the MPAA considers it a priority, and the agreement is viewed as a way to bolster intellectual property protection by conforming copyright terms and enacting import restrictions on counterfeit goods.

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Few are sure how Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, likely to lead the Judiciary Committee, will handle copyright reform. During recent months, there have been hearings on advancing the first major legislative changes to copyright in 40 years. Issues being brought to the table include resale royalties, orphan works and fair use. "If we see anything, it might come from music licensing," says Copyright Alliance legal policy director Terry Hart, citing sympathetic Republican lawmakers who might have the ear of the Nashville community.

A law governing the retransmission of broadcast television content by satellite companies — a key and emerging source of network revenue — also is up for renewal and could become a vehicle to weigh retrans by online services as well as a proposal championed by Arizona Sen. John McCain for a la carte channels. "I think legislative gridlock will affect copyright less than anything else," says Venable attorney Joshua Kaufman, though he admits a Republican block on judicial appointments could create a backlog of intellectual property disputes in federal courts.