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The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund believes that the advancement of our society relies on the unfettered expression of our words. In that spirit, we are creating The Defender, a database of dramatic works that have been challenged or censored in the United States. This new initiative is intended to serve many purposes. First, it will help to educate everyone about the subjective and transient standards that have been employed by censor. The Defender will also serve to highlight the shows that have overcome such challenges to persevere in the face of adversity. In addition, it will be a useful tool for research on the issue of free expression in America.  Finally, it will cast a spotlight on the self-appointed moral watchdogs in our midst, and catalogue the common excuses they use to justify their oppressive activities.  If you, know of a dramatic work (play or musical) that has been challenged (either successfully or unsuccessfully), we want to know about it. Please reply to the following questions and help us to shed a light on this critical issue affecting us all.  Because words matter.
To access the survey click the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DLDFDEFENDER


The DLDF Censorship Database - Who is Watching the Watchmen?



The advancement of our society relies on the unfettered expression of words. So to defend them, the Dramatists Guild has formed the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund (DLDF).

The DLDF, formed as a nonprofit arm of the Dramatists Guild of America, advocates on behalf of you, of theaters, audiences, and all those in the culture at large who are confronting censorship on stages across America. As well, we are here to defend indigent artists who cannot defend themselves.

The DLDF’s mission includes educating about the importance to our society of an ever-expanding public domain and a proper administration of the copyright laws that serve to ensure it. We are here to inform theater professionals and students about the fair practices that have evolved in the industry in order to protect your dramatic works.

Because words matter.
Join the fight.

LET US KNOW:  If you are aware of a dispute in your community that deals with these types of issues, please inform us;

INVITE US:  If you are a part of an academic institution or nonprofit theater organization, invite your playwrights and your staff attorneys to talk and discuss these issues with your community; and

JOIN US:  If you are an attorney, or know of any, or are aware of any legal service group that would offer pro bono or discounted representation on these sorts of issues, please allow us to include them in our national legal services directory.


In the July/August issue of the Dramatists Guild’s publication John Cariani wrote about his experience with the almost cancelled production of Almost, Maine in Maiden, NC.

In October of 2014, school officials at Maiden High School in Maiden, North Carolina canceled a production of my play Almost, Maine citing its “sexually explicit overtones” as the reason for pulling the plug. However, according to local media reports, many students felt that the real reason was because of public outcry over a scene in the play called “They Fell” in which two men declare their love for one another. Within days, the school’s decision drew national attention and ire. Several major media outlets contacted me for comment, and Playbill.com asked me for a statement. I am not particularly political. I am not an activist. Almost, Maine is not a political play. It’s a sweet, sad collection of love stories. It’s about as unobjectionable as can be. And yet it has generated a surprising amount of controversy over the past few years because of “They Fell.” To read the rest of the article CLICK HERE


The DLDF honored Howard Sherman (pictured left) with its “Defender Award”. DLDF Secretary JT Rogers (pictured right) presented Sherman with the Award on February 23, 2015 at the Dramatists Guild Awards Night. The DLDF Defender Award is presented annually to recognize an individual’s efforts in support of free expression in the dramatic arts.


The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund lends support to Adjmi in “3C” fair use case.

The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund congratulates playwright David Adjmi and his attorneys for their victory in the “fair use” suit against DLT entertainment, the producers of the TV series Three’s Company. DLT claimed that Adjmi’s play, 3C, was an infringement of their copyrights, but Mr. Adjmi was granted a declaratory judgment on the pleadings by Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska, in the Southern District of New York. The Court found that the play was “clearly a transformative use” of the TV show, a parody that functioned as a deconstruction and critique, and the play in no way usurped the commercial market for the TV series, so it was therefore a “fair use” and not an infringement. Judge Preska found that the distinct nature of the works was so “patently obvious” that the court required no further information to render its judgment beyond the pleadings themselves.

The DLDF viewed this case as important in its potential impact on “fair use”, which is a vital mechanism for preserving the right of free expression under the First Amendment and balancing it with the exclusive monopoly over expression granted to authors under our copyright law.”
In that spirit, the DLDF contacted the playwright at the outset of the controversy to offer its support and, ultimately, submitted a brief to the court on behalf of Mr. Adjmi, as amicus curiae. In fact, Judge Preska’s decision cited specific cases and quotes that appeared exclusively in the DLDF’s brief, so the board was gratified to learn that its involvement may have had some influence over the decision in the case.

The DLDF is grateful to Mr. Adjmi’s attorneys, Edward J. Davis, Camille Calman, and Bruce Edward Johnson from the law firm of Davis, Wright & Tremaine, for allowing the organization to get involved in the case, and the board members congratulate them on their successful advocacy. The DLDF hopes and expects that Mr. Adjmi will now be able to publish and license his play without further interference.

The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization created to advocate for free expression in the dramatic arts, to encourage a robust public domain, and to support the proper administration of copyright in America.

To contribute to the DLDF or to contact us, visit us at www.dldf.org.

The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund… because words matter.
Join the Fight.


New York, NY December 15, 2014

The Dramatists Guild of America, the national association of playwrights, librettists, composers and lyricists, is proud to support the drive to have Arthur Miller honored with a United States Postage Stamp on the 100th Anniversary of Arthur Miller's birth, October 15, 2015.  A lifetime member of the Dramatists Guild, Mr. Miller was the first playwright to win the Drama Critics Circle Award,  Tony Award, and Pulitzer Prize for Drama all in the same year for "DEATH OF A SALESMAN" in 1949.  Other Miller plays include "ALL MY SONS," "A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE," "THE PRICE," "THE CRUCIBLE," among many others, and no day goes by where one of his plays is not being performed somewhere in the world.  As President of PEN International, Arthur Miller was a powerful voice for free speech not only in his plays and essays but in his speeches and personal appearances.  Like other Dramatists Guild members Moss Hart, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O'Neill, who have all been commemorated with US Postage stamps, Arthur Miller is deserving of this honor.  The Dramatists Guild will petition both the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee and the US Postmaster to put forward this request.  The Guild also urges its members to support the effort and encourage theatres, artistic directors, performers, designers, technicians and all the artists who work in the theatres around the country to help this remarkable American writer be properly honored for his life's work.  

Letters of support may be sent to:

The Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee
475 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Room 4474 EB
Washington DC 20260-0010

To contact US Postmaster Patrick R. Donahoe, e-mail can be sent to pmgceo@usps.gov

Arthur Miller’s work was not only timely, but timeless, and his importance to our nation’s history, as both an artist and a citizen, requires proper acknowledgement on the occasion of his centennial.  As he himself once wrote, attention must be paid to such a man.

New York, NY December 4, 2014

The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund (DLDF) filed an amicus curiae brief in the Southern District of New York Court case Adjmi v. DLT Entertainment LTD. in support of Adjmi’s claim that his Off-Broadway production of “3C” was a fair use and a parody of the popular television show “Three’s Company”.

Earlier this year Mr. Adjmi filed a suit to receive affirmation that his play did not infringe upon DLT Entertainment’s copyright.  DLT Entertainment filed a counterclaim of copyright infringement. Representatives for the Plaintiff contacted the DLDF to write an amicus brief in support of fair use and parody. Click here to read the amicus brief.

 /media/PDFs/Memorandum of Law_14Civ0568.pdf


DLDF Treasurer, Ralph Sevush, poses with Larissa Mark and students from Trumbull High School who were being honored at the National Coalition Against Censorship’s “A Night to Remember Neil Gaiman, Robie Harris, Trumbull Thespians and more!



Since its founding, the United States has recognized the progress of arts for the enjoyment and benefit of the public as an important value underpinning its constitutional principles, including the freedom of speech.  In recent years, this progress has been threatened by various initiatives of individuals, community groups, and others to suppress or restrict the artistic content of plays, particularly those that involve important political and cultural speech, such as war, religious tension, and alternative lifestyles.  For example, in 2009 a Newport Beach, California high school canceled its production of Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile after complaints about “adult content.”  Similarly, in 2007 the Wilton Connecticut High School canceled Voices in Conflict, an original student play dealing with the war in Iraq, with the principal questioning the play’s political balance and context.  Please see the attached articles for more information about these efforts.
While attempts to suppress or restrict protected speech regularly arise in high school settings, similar efforts have been made with respect to plays performed for adult audiences.  In 2008, the Chicago production of Jersey Boys had to rework a scene to remove references to smoking based on a patron’s complaint that it violated local law.  During the past couple of years, theaters in Florida, New York, and Toronto have canceled scheduled productions of My Name is Rachel Corrie because of backlash from elements of the public reaction to its political content; the play is based on the diaries of a young woman who was killed during a protest against the destruction of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip.  Even acknowledged masterpieces, like Angels in America and Corpus Christi, have been hindered by protests and pressures from groups and governmental bodies. 

Principals, school teachers, and other school officials, as well as professional producers of plays, are often at a loss when faced with pressure from community groups aiming to suppress the presentation of a work whose subject matter they consider undesirable or unpopular.  Every month there are theatrical productions being shut down and protested based exclusively on the content of the speech contained within those works of art. 

These types of protests and pressures are not the only constraint on the progress of arts for the enjoyment and benefit of the public.  Over the past decade, a new constraint has emerged as an increasing number of interpretive artists in the theatrical space – such as stage directors, designers, actors, and producers – seek to claim ownership over various aspects of authorship in a manner analogous to a symphony conductor claiming authorial rights connected to the underlying musical compositions he interprets.  For example, Joe Mantello, an award-winning director of the successful Broadway play Love! Valour! Compassion!, sued a director and theater producing the same play in Florida claiming that their production intentionally replicated his interpretation of the play by copying, among other things, the  stage movements and other elements of the production which he had mounted.  More recently, the Stage Directors & Choreographers Society claimed that productions of Urinetown at theaters in Chicago and Akron infringed the rights of director John Rando and his direction of the Broadway production.  The United States Department of Justice intervened in that case on behalf of the United States Copyright Office asserting that stage direction is not copyrightable subject matter, but the case was settled before a court could reaffirm the current state of the law. 

If successful, such attempts at expanding the range of property rights to various aspects of a stage production would exert a chilling effect on theatres that wanted to mount a new production and negatively impact the public’s access to the work.  Plays that are currently in the public domain, including those of Aristophanes, Shakespeare, and Chekhov, would not be immune to this new world, requiring high schools and community centers wanting to produce plays such as Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet for educational purposes to obtain a range of permissions.  Many of these organizations might simply decide to cancel a production or decline to produce the work at all because of the costs associated with obtaining such permissions or the threat of litigation arising from so many protected interests.


Recognizing the various constraints on the progress of arts for the enjoyment and benefit of the public, the Corporation will act as a legal defense fund protecting constitutional rights and conducting educational programs and activities focused on supporting freedom of speech and artistic integrity in the world of theater and live performance and protecting the culture from the illegal diminishment of artistic expression freely available in the public domain.  The Corporation’s activities will be aimed at making progress in three main categories: (1) governmental censorship of dramatic expression; (2) unauthorized limitations on dramatic expression resulting from private action, including censorship in the market and interest-group pressure and boycotts; and (3) public or private actions that serve to diminish the public domain of artistic expression, including actions against plays and musicals that serve to inhibit the work’s artistic integrity or diminish the public domain and actions that undermine the government’s ability to properly administer copyright protection. 

The Corporation will engage in a number of educational activities designed to raise awareness of these issues, promote artistic integrity in the world of theater and live performance, and empower those who face threats to these constitutional rights such as arts administrators, educators, and artists.  The Corporation will strive to become a resource for individuals seeking to learn more about these issues, and it will research, study, and disseminate information on relevant topics through publications (e.g., articles, pamphlets, a website, etc.), seminars, and events accessible to the public. 

The Corporation will provide legal support for handling these constitutional rights in courts.  The Corporation’s initiatives in this regard will focus on matters that (1) inhibit expressive speech to the detriment of the public domain (e.g., rights of publicity, censorship, inappropriate expansion of copyright), (2) create liability at the expense of the public domain (e.g., through contract), (3) attempt to frustrate proper administration at the U.S. Copyright Office (e.g., fraudulent claims that derivative works are “authorized”), or (4) involve claims that would create inconsistencies within the law or cause inefficient use of copyright (e.g., conflicting state laws).  Support will include providing full litigation services for cases involving indigent individuals and submitting amicus briefs, providing expert testimony, and funding discovery for other types of cases that will advance the Corporation’s charitable and educational purposes.  The Corporation might also participate in class actions and conduct alternative dispute resolution for disputes that will impact the progress of arts for the enjoyment and benefit of the public.