Sep 22, 2020
Fighting With Teenagers - A Copyright Story by Jason Robert Brown
I have known for a while that there are websites where you can essentially download sheet music for free, and I am certainly aware that a lot of the sheet music being downloaded in that manner was written by me. While my wife Georgia Stitt has written extensively about this problem, I have tended to sit back, certain that anything I do would just be the tiniest drop in a very large bucket. But about a month ago, I was seized by the idea to try an experiment.
I signed on to the website that is most offensive to me, got an account, and typed my name into the Search box. I got 4,000 hits. Four thousand copies of my music were being offered for "trade." (I put "trade" in quotes because of course it's not really a trade, since nobody's giving anything up in exchange for what they get. It's just making illegal unauthorized copies, and calling it "trade" legitimizes it in an utterly fraudulent way.) I clicked on the most recent addition, and I sent the user who was offering that music an email. This is what I wrote...
Sep 21, 2020
Don't Change The Words or Music
As a part of our effort to support dramatists and their allies in the fight, we created a telephone hotline and email address, where anyone can anonymously report instances of copyright infringement – the Guild will reach out to writers, licensors, and publishers of theatrical works to follow up on the reports.
To anonymously report copyright infringement, or if you don’t know where to go to request a script change, you can call the #DontChangeTheWords hotline at 1-855-71-WORDS, to leave a report via voicemail. If you send a text to that same number, you will receive a link to fill out a report online that will be shared with the Guild’s Business Affairs department. You can also email the Guild to report infringement in your area.
Sep 18, 2020
Childress v. Taylor by Cheryl L. Davis
There’s one thing that a writer learns very very quickly: everybody has an opinion about your work. It becomes part of the writer’s job to winnow through those various opinions to figure out which ones are actually helpful. But, by accepting someone’s suggestions about your script, are you actually making them your co-author? “Survey says”—and the Courts say—“No.”
Sep 17, 2020
The Varied Copyrights of Theatre
IN THE THEATRE INDUSTRY, copyright law protects the contributions of authors, be they playwrights, librettists, composers, or lyricists. However, the highly collaborative nature of theatre brings many contributions to the production from non-authorial artists as well. A winning production is the perfect combination of these elements, some owned outright by their respective contributors, some owned only under certain circumstances, and some not proprietary at all. On one end of the spectrum is the author as owner of the script, and on the other end is the director who—according to the Copy-right Act of 1976 (the “Copyright Act” or the “Act”) and the Department of Justice—owns no copyright. Other artists, however, enjoy some type of ownership interest.
Sep 16, 2020
The WGA Script Registry Is No Substitute For Copyright Registration
The WGA Script Registry is costing writers’ money and is acting as a detriment, not an asset, to writers. As an entertainment litigator who is regularly asked to handle copyright infringement lawsuits against motion picture studios, one of the biggest problems I face is with writers registering their work with the WGA Script Registry instead of the U.S. Copyright Oﬃce. By doing so, these writers are not only costing themselves tens of thousands of dollars in potential recovery but, in many cases they are guaranteeing they won’t recover any money at all.
Sep 15, 2020
Three Copyright Advocacy Webinars Starting Sept 21
Wait! That’s Not What I Wrote! with Amanda Green and Doug Wright moderated by Cheryl Davis from the Authors Guild
Monday, September 21 at 2pm EDT
Copyright Questions with Catherine Rowland from The U.S. Copyright Office
Friday, September 25 at 2pm EDT
Music Copyright 101 with Sean Patrick Flahaven from Concord Theatricals
Wednesday, September 30 at 2pm
Sep 14, 2020
FORMS FOR AUDITIONS AND REHEARSALS
Anti-Piracy Forms (Copyright Acknowledgement Forms)
Under the Copyright Act, authors have the right to keep their work confidential during the various stages of completion. In order to prevent potential misuse of audition and rehearsal materials, we have developed two Copyright Acknowledgements for authors, producers, or other theater professionals to distribute. Click the link below for more information on how to combat piracy in the world of theater.
Sep 12, 2020
A Statutory Rebuff to the Idea of a Director's Copyright
Shows change over time, as do the connections with various producers, designers, and, of course, directors. What does not change is you, the author of the work. You get to decide the order of the scenes, which character is on stage at a given time, the dialogue of the piece. For your efforts, the government gives you ownership of the copyright in your work."
Rachel S. Wolkowitz rebuffs the idea of a so-called 'director's copyright.
Sep 10, 2020
The Urinetown Papers: The U.S. Copyright Office Debunks the Notion of a "Director's Copyright"
In "The URINETOWN Papers," The U.S. Copyright Office debunks the notion of a director's copywright. Learn how and why they came to that decision via a series of documents compiled by Ralph Sevush.
Sep 08, 2020
Six Comments on Streaming During the Coronavirus
When theatres began cancelling productions, many tried switching to live-streaming, some doing so successfully. While requests to livestream stage plays have dwindled with increased stay-at-home directives, there are still many reasons to study the industry standards we’ve already seen: live-streaming and archive streaming have many of the same issues; live-streaming may come back, and a subset of dramatists may be able to use live-streaming throughout this crisis.
Keep in mind that you, the author, must give permission for any streaming. Any special permissions should be only for the time of the coronavirus outbreak, whether that be keyed to an official state of emergency from a specific government, or a theatre’s ability to return to hosting live audiences. (1) The important thing is that streaming permissions should have an end date.
Most dramatists understand the urgency in permitting a stream of their works at this time: this might be the last royalty you see for a while, or might be a unique opportunity to get recognition in a historically saturated market. (2) You should inform your agents and other representatives whether you permit these uses, and under what circumstances.
(Even with the author’s approval, streaming a production could be stopped by other professionals, such as those represented by other theatrical unions and guilds.)
Authors get paid if, and when, any other person involved with the production is getting paid: director, actors, front-desk receptionist—anybody. Even if “nobody’s getting paid,” authors typically obtain their license fee, whether a flat fee, per performance, or a royalty against advance. (3) Don’t let the coronavirus become yet another reason used to battle against the idea of paying you for your artwork.
To obtain a standard amount for these permissions, you still need to know how many audience members are seeing your work. Under no circumstances have we seen legitimate video streams of theatre works just sitting on YouTube or a theatre’s website, free for all the public to see, in full, whenever they want and however many times they want.
What the Guild has seen are restrictions that parallel the written agreement for live performance. For example, a 99-seat theater that licensed a production for five performances would be allowed to stream to only 99 people, and only for five performances (no more than one per day). Of course, an author could negotiate more “seats” and more “performances” as desired, so long as the royalty is likewise increased. (4) Put boundaries on access and number of performances.
The larger theatres and licensing houses have been able to limit access to paying audience members through password protection. This presents a problem for mid-sized and smaller theatres because password protection can be a cost-prohibitive service. The Guild is still researching potential solutions for affordable password protection. (5) Send proven solutions for affordable password protection to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, consider what opportunities might be specific to you. We spoke to one theatre that had an archive of authors performing their own cabaret-style shows, streamlining permissions. We spoke to an individual who felt his particular, niche audience would pay if left to the honor code, and posted one of his own works. It’s easy enough to set up a Patreon account or put out your Venmo information. (6) Be creative when imagining new opportunities for employing your artwork.
David H. Faux
Sep 07, 2020
ASK BA: International Copyright and Licensing
Ralph Sevush, Executive Director of Business Affairs & General Counsel, Tonda Marton, Literary Agent and President of The Marton Agency, David Faux, Of Counsel, Deborah Murad, Executive Director of DG Copyright Management , and Amy VonMacek, Director of Council Programs
Ralph Sevush, David Faux, and guest Tonda Marton, literary agent and president of The Marton Agency, discuss international copyright and licensing practices and insight into international copyright treaties.
Guest Speaker: Tonda Marton has been running The Marton Agency since 1992 when she took over the agency that her aunt Elisabeth Marton founded in 1953. She was born in Los Angeles and raised there and overseas. Tonda has a BA from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles and an MFA in stage directing from UCLA. Because of her nomadic childhood, she speaks French, Spanish, Italian, and German which has often proved useful in selling plays and musicals overseas.
The Marton Agency handles foreign language rights for American plays and musicals. They are a full-service agency for overseas producers and foreign literary agents.
About the Business Affairs Department at the Dramatists Guild
The staff lawyers in Business Affairs can review unsigned contracts and advise on a wide range of matters including options, commissions, royalties, copyright, collaboration, trademark, rights of privacy, rights of publicity, defamation, so-called “life-story rights,” and agents. It can also provide guidance, and follow up on complaints regarding theatres, producers, publishers, agents, attorneys, festivals, and contests.
Business Affairs also provides constructive comments to government and business leaders on balancing institutional tradition in the face of necessary innovation. Toward this end, the lawyers at the Guild track U.S. and worldwide theater business trends, advise members on immediate business concerns, and draft statements reflecting the Council’s position on issues of national import.
For more information on Guild Services, you can visit us at www.dramatistsguild.com/contract-reviews-and-business-advice-writers or call 212-398-9366