Can companies that buy the broadcasting rights, also buy merchandising rights in North America? I have been wondering if that's considered to be illegal practice, because that gives a company too much power.

For instance, when Netflix bought the broadcasting rights for Squid Game, did they also buy the merchandising rights from the writer? If so, what does the law state in order to make it fair to the original owner of the IP? Does Netflix have to do something to make it fair for the original IP owners like give them a cut of the merchandising profits?

  • 5
    What does fairness have to do with free enterprise? Authors and companies like NetFlix negotiate; they're not required to make a deal. Oct 24 at 15:27
  • What does free enterprise have to do with the law? I don't know of many jurisdictions whose laws are overriden by vague invocations of economic theory.
    – bdb484
    Oct 24 at 20:50
  • @bdb484 Laws are often drafted to favor the economic systems already in vogue in a jurisdiction. US and UK laws, for example, are often drafted with an eye to allowing and favoring general ideas of "free enterprise". That helps explain why no US law has provisions similar to the one the OP suggests. The law could have included such restrictions, if Congress had wished. There are US laws restricting common ownership of newspapers and radio stations, if I am not mistaken. In that case the issues were thought larger than any theory of free enterprise. Oct 24 at 23:53
  • I think it's fair to say that laws are almost always drafted to do what you're saying. But invoking current trends in economic theory doesn't really advance the discussion when our laws have been built on top of each other for more than 200 years. OP is essentially asking about monopoly/trust law, which is somewhat antithetical to ideas of free enterprise, but a major component of the existing law nonetheless.
    – bdb484
    Oct 25 at 14:26

There is no general rule against one company or person buying both broadcasting rights and merchandising rights to a particular piece of content in the US.

There are anti-monopoly/anti-trust laws, but those generally only apply if a particular entity holds a monopoly or a commanding market position in a whole market sector. If one firm held the rights to 80% of all online games, for example, an anti-trust action might well be warranted. But a single game or property is not generally considered to be a market sector for anti-trust purposes. Exactly what the proper market sector is in such cases is often a complex, technical, and highly disputed issue.

The "original owner of the IP" can decide who s/he wishes to sell that IP to -- nothing requires, or forbids, that different sets of rights be sold to the same buyer. The original owner will attempt to get the best deal available. Sometimes that is a very lucrative deal, and sometimes it is far from that. As long as unlawful methods are not used to induce a sale, whatever bargain the parties make is generally acceptable to the law.

I do not know who did, or did not, buy any of the rights to Squid Game, and that info might not be publicly available. But there is no law that I know of against the same party having both broadcast and marketing rights to it, and perhaps other rights as well.


Cross media adaptations don't just use existing IP under a license, they also generate new IP. Those new elements of IP are owned by the one making the adaptation, provided that there are differences.

Merchandise for a film usually uses the film is its source to adapt, and would before others, need the filmmaker to license using their work. Often, visual designs are not part of books, and so the contribution of the book's author is less in the visual design and more in the story. In fact, there are books where the adaptation has literally nothing in common with the film but names! (I'm looking at you, Starship Troopers.)

Because of this behavior that there might not even be a right in the visual design owned by the book IP used in the merchandise, it is common practice to include any and all possible merchandise to the adaptation in a licensing deal for adapting.


The owner of the IP is free to contract with whoever however they mutually agree.

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