In The Heights is an incredible story of family, community, and figuring out what it really means to pursue your dreams (big or little!). It’s given us this summer’s first big moment – a joyful celebration of music, diversity, and all the things that make America great. And for millions, it marked the first trip back to the theaters and put an exclamation mark on the hope of reopening and getting back to normal.
Yes, but tell me something I Don’t Know . . .
OK! In The Heights has also been an economic engine for New York, creating over 1,200 new jobs and adding $35 million to the state’s economy – an incredible boon to Empire State families and communities reeling from the COVID shutdown. From catering to construction to wardrobe and cleaning, In The Heights has paid over $22 million in wages to workers in the state.
It’s a creative and commercial achievement of the highest order – one called “vital to our collective efforts to renew, reimagine and rebuild our economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic” by state economic leaders.
It’s the kind of thing that’s only possible when many incredible forces come together in just the right way. Starting with the category-breaking creative vision of Lin Manuel-Miranda to the individual genius and hard work of thousands of performers, musicians, and crew.
And all standing on a foundation of a strong creative ecosystem that allows and encourages technological innovation, artistic experimentation, and new ways to produce, distribute, and market great work.
That foundation has been part of the American legal system since the very beginning of our nation. Strong protection for creators and copyright was written into our Constitution and signed into federal law by President George Washington even before the enactment of the Bill of Rights. It has stood the test of time, encouraging innovation and new ways of creating and sharing great art from silent movies to Dolby Atmos.
It has allowed creators like the team that made In The Heights to seamlessly move a work from stage to cinema to digital home streaming. From Tik Tok mashups to Peloton soundtrack rides and beyond, American copyright law provides a nimble and almost boundless framework for creators to come up with new ways to tell their stories – and earn a fair living while doing so.
All while being protected from piracy, plagiarism, and other rip offs that would otherwise drain the value out of their own creations. When the pandemic hit and forced Broadway to close and filmmakers to delay upcoming releases like In The Heights, strong federal copyright protections allowed them to make decisions based on public health and their own business judgment, not fear that if they didn’t rush their work to market someone else would simply rip it off. As more and more work moved to digital distribution, creators could know they would be protected by clear legal rules requiring anyone who wanted to use their work to license and pay for it.
The system isn’t perfect. Despite the ubiquitous availability of films and shows on innovative legal streaming services, streaming piracy has erupted alongside the legitimate marketplace. Important efforts are underway in Congress to strengthen and modernize the foundational Digital Millennium Copyright Act which, despite Congress good intentions, hasn’t mitigated the availability of pirated works online. And while voluntary agreements among good faith internet actors and creators can blunt some of the damage, much more can and should be done.
Online service providers are too quick to turn a blind eye to rogue websites and digital apps and services that would rather cash in on piracy than address it. And policymakers can sometimes be too slow to adopt innovations that have proved safe and effective overseas like legal tools used in dozens of nations to block dedicated illegal piracy sites from preying on consumers.
But overall, US Copyright law has provided a solid foundation for American creators and everyone who depends upon their work – for work, entertainment, and the kind of community and connection In The Heights so powerfully celebrates.
And it’s important to say it so it doesn’t get overlooked!