Elgar Law, Technology and Society series
Introduction: How Did We Get Here?
The Rockettes is a well-known precision dance company performing out of Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Every Christmas season since 1932, the company performed Radio Music City Hall’s famed ‘Christmas Spectacular’ four-to-six shows a day, seven days a week, with its bestknown routine being an eye-high leg kick in perfect unison with a chorus line included at the end of every performance. The magic of America’s favourite holiday show was complete with the Rockettes’ performance to a 36-piece live orchestra. However, in 2005, in the course of a failed standard contractual negotiation between the musicians’ union and the producers of the Christmas Spectacular, the show producers turned their musicians away when they showed up to perform for the show and opted instead for recorded music to back the show’s performance.1 By doing so, the producers of the Christmas Spectacular determined, and to a large extent diluted, the cultural experience that their patrons experienced, by replacing a full orchestra with canned, pre-recorded music. While nothing in the law prohibits the producers from doing so, surely there has to be some moral obligation that is owed by the producers to the musicians and the patrons of the Christmas Spectacular. Shouldn’t the producer of a public performance have an ethical obligation to provide the best cultural experience possible for society because social and cultural progress depend on a good faith provision of creative works? The law appears to not think that producers of creative works are required to abide by...