In response to the seismic shift in our industry, Dramatists Guild leapt into action by creating the New Media Committee. This committee is at the forefront of investigating and researching live streaming practices from at-home DIYs to large non-profit theaters streaming archival performances, and you can help. We've created a survey for our members because you are on the front lines and we need your voice.
If you have either put your own work online or have been approached by a theatre to put your work online, we want to hear from you. What did you learn? What do you wish had gone differently? The New Media Committee will collect this information and use it to create a map of industry practices of live streaming theatre. Please answer this survey and pass it along to other dramatists to get their input. It is important that we have all voices represented.
Thank you for taking the time to voice your experience. Your answers will help shape our industry. TAKE OUR SURVEY.
When theatres began canceling 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 the 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
"It is the author’s exclusive right to approve presentations of their work. No organization or person has the right to present the author’s work in any form without first obtaining permission."
As theaters remain closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many producing organizations have moved to presenting livestreamed content. Specifically, producing organizations are looking to present works from their archives or convert previously contemplated live performances into digitally streamed performances.
To help you navigate these new uses of your work, we offer you a model Livestream Addendum agreement to revise your prior agreements to include such “digital rights”. This agreement reflects our research which included conversation with publishers, producing entities and unions.
As we continue our conversations with industry leaders, we will update this agreement as necessary. But this addendum is not designed for theaters commissioning you to write an original work intended solely for digital performances (what we call a “Virtual Work”). If you wish to negotiate terms for licensing or being commissioned to write a virtual work, a separate agreement will be required (The DG is currently developing such a new media model agreement, in consultation with the Writers Guild of America East and the DG’s New Media Committee).
Before using this agreement, please recall the following:
1. It is the author’s exclusive right to approve presentations of their work. No organization or person has the right to present the author’s work in any form without first obtaining permission.
2. As with any presentation, authors should make sure that their basic authorial rights (script approval, creative approval, the right to be present) are preserved and that they receive standard royalties and billing credit.
3. Livestreamed and archive presentations are not equivalent to live stage presentations. Therefore, requests for subsidiary rights, producer billing and future options should be carefully scrutinized.
4. For livestreamed and archival presentations, special attention must be placed on efforts to protect against piracy. The presenting organization should be able to explain what type of technology is being used and what protections are in place to protect the author’s work from being copied, circulated, or viewed beyond the contemplated number of performances.
This is a template agreement; no one is obligated to use it. You need to read it completely and review its content, to make your own determination as to its applicability to your situation. Please make any changes that you deem necessary and be sure to make selections of those provisions that have been indicated with italics [in brackets].
The DG’s advice and guidance inferred from this model agreement does NOT constitute legal advice. Consultation with your personal attorney is advised.
This is intended to be a model contract that will enable you to grant a non-profit producer the exclusive right to present Livestreamed productions. If you have already entered into a stage production agreement and wish to either replace it or extend it to include livestreaming rights, please use the DG Livestream Addendum instead of this Digital Rights Agreement. If you are being commissioned to write a play for livestreamed performances, you can use the DG’s form of Commission Agreementand attach it to this agreement as an exhibit.
If you also wish to license live stage production rights along with your digital rights, you can negotiate terms using the DG form of live production agreement that is applicable to your circumstances and attach it to this agreement as an exhibit. If you have a publisher and/oragent that is the exclusive representative for your stock & amateur rights, you will need to check with them to see if they have a “digital rights” rider that will enable them to license your livestreaming rights along with (or instead of) your live production rights. If they have submitted such a rider to you, we are available to review it with you.
The form is reviewed by the Guild from time to time, so you may want to check with us to get the most up-to-date version.