when big money crushes culture

Sense8, The OA, mindhunter…Wild deletions are normal. This time, however, it would be more correct to speak of complete cancellation. The animated series FinalSpace Not only will it be removed from all legal streaming platforms, physical formats will also be banned from sale. In question: a fiscal optimization maneuver, establishing that a production can be eradicated for economic reasons.

The sentence was abrupt, for its creator as for his fans. Created in 2018, the animated series FinalSpace for three seasons, it has been telling the adventures of Gary, a prisoner astronaut, and his friend Mooncake, a friendly alien destroyer of planets. Endless adventures, as the fourth season was canceled last fall.

“Your memory of FinalSpace it will be the only proof of its existence”

But a year after the announcement of this cancellation, it seems that fate has reserved it FinalSpace be even crueler. Beyond a non-renewal, what the series is about to undergo is an uprooting in good and due form. With the expiration of the licenses, the first three seasons are permanently removed from the legal platforms where they were broadcast, even those where the episodes have been paid for, such as Amazon.

To drive home the point, sales of physical media, such as Blu-rays, have also been banned. But here it is: the first two seasons have been out of print for a long time, and season 3 has never been released in this format. For those who don’t have a copy, the only way to watch FinalSpace streaming will soon be illegal. Series creator Olan Rogers bitterly noted this in a tweet: “Your memory of FinalSpace it will be the only proof of its existence. »

“There is nothing exceptional about this practicerecalls Maître Benjamin Montels, lawyer of the Paris bar, specialist in intellectual property and digital law. The platforms remove programs every day that have been produced by external companies, he continues. They always sign contracts of limited duration, of three, four or five years, which necessarily implies a withdrawal after a few years. »

So nothing shocking. Except in the case of FinalSpace, the total and irrevocable ban on operating raises questions. Because in addition to the disappearance of the catalogs, the digital copies purchased permanently, and not rented, are starting to be removed from the virtual libraries of their owners.

Benjamin Montels says such practices are “very questionable”. But he also adds that it is important to check the limits of liability of the platforms. “Sometimes when we dig a little into the terms and conditions of use of these ultimate VOD captures, we realize there can be a lot of limitations”he says.

Total and definitive disappearance against the tax credit

Questionable practice in court or not, FinalSpace it is, however, in the process of definitive evaporation. Difficult to digest for the creator of this universe. Especially since the reasons for the disappearance of the work are far from being linked to its quality, which has never been questioned. “Five years of my life. Three seasons on television. Blood, sweat, tears… which turn into a tax credit for the network that owns the rights FinalSpace »reveals Olan Rogers on Twitter.

The series, in fact, is owned by the Warner Bros. Discovery group, the result of the merger last April of WarnerMedia and Discovery. The new head of the company, David Zaslav, has just embarked on an unprecedented shredding activity in the industry. His goal: to save money, whatever the cost. And Zaslav’s strategy can be summed up in three words: “tax relief”. A method of obtaining a tax break in exchange for waiving rights to a product. Legally, this production no longer exists and any marketing, in any format, becomes prohibited.

A tactic that streaming platforms have no leverage over. “The culprits in this case are more to be found on the side of US taxationexplains Maestro Montels. The platforms only apply the rules of contract law. » Rules that justify the transfer of contents or products, and which are here extended to the works. “Sometimes it is no longer conceivable to use this or that asset, but in the field of culture this involves an attack on the diffusion of creation”points out the lawyer.

In reality, FinalSpace joins a long list of projects sacrificed on the altar of big money. More than 30 anime series have been removed from Warner’s streaming platform HBO Max (Infinity Train, OKKO, Summer Camp Island, Scoob!: Holiday Haunt…). But the biggest scandal is undoubtedly this summer’s cancellation of the film Bad girl. No one will ever see the $90 million feature film from the DC Comics universe, still being filmed and edited. The test projections were considered too disappointing by Zaslav. Project buried, let’s move on to the next one. In late October, Warner Bros. Discovery estimated the cost of its scrapped productions at more than $2 billion.

The quality of the works, a non-priority for Hollywood studios and streaming platforms

It is therefore entire elements of the audiovisual heritage that are falling into oblivion. And among these, the small masterpiece of animation that is FinalSpace. Olan Rogers and the many people who contributed to the project are necessarily hurt; but the great loser of the story is above all the public. Because if, like Adya Godboley, journalist for Fandom threadthe removal of this series sets a precedent that capitalism can destroy art, the quality of future content could take a major hit.

Yet recognized for its quality, FinalSpace it’s part of the sacrifices made by new Warner Bros. boss Discovery to pay off his debts.© Warner Bros. Discovery

For streaming platforms, economic considerations are already increasingly influencing the choice of catalogues. Especially now that Netflix is ​​losing subscribers and the competition is heating up. This is why so many series have no end or that platforms focus everything on formats that sell a lot, such as news. However, it seems that an extreme case like that of FinalSpace be a “economic epiphenomenon”. In any case, this is what François Moreau, digital and cultural economist, thinks.

If cancellations for tax reasons continue, they will still be limited to American works, according to Benjamin Montels. “For French operas, such a situation is impossiblereassures. Tax laws are not equivalent and copyright would not allow it. » Indeed, in France, a producer cannot destroy the exploitation of an audiovisual work, as David Zaslav did.

The creator of FinalSpaceOlan Rogers, has stated that he will continue to fight for his series, until all operating licenses have expired.© Warner Bros. Discovery

“In French copyright law there is a principle of obligation for the producer to seek the exploitation of a work, develop the specialist. If he no longer uses it, for example for tax reasons, the author can ask to recover his rights [une loi inscrite à l’article L132-27 du Code de la propriété intellectuelle, ndlr]. » An obligation of exploitation totally absent from the rules of American copyright. Something to reassure fans of French series a little.

For his part, Gary and Mooncake’s father said he would continue to fight for his characters. She sells flocked clothes online with the hashtag #RenewFinalSpace, hoping to save his creation. Meanwhile, it is still possible to watch the three seasons of FinalSpace on Netflix the license has not yet expired for internationals. Whats-On-Netflix.com viewing deadline: December 16, 2023.

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