Below is a statement from the Dramatists Guild of America about the unauthorized use of copyrighted material, most recently the Broadway musical HAMILTON:
We understand that the desire to perform a song or sequence from a theatrical work comes from a place of passion for the source material. In particular, when young people encounter a piece of art that inspires them, they naturally want to study it, learn it and try it on for size. It’s one of the ways young artists grow to find their own voices. Still, it is important to recognize that unauthorized use of a dramatist’s copyrighted work is illegal.
Authors of dramatic works (including playwrights, librettists, lyricists and composers) own their copyrights, but very few dramatists writing for the theater make a living at it. In exchange for retaining ownership and control of their words and music, they have foregone the benefits of unionization enjoyed by other groups of artists (like directors, designers, choreographers in the theater, as well as TV and film writers). Dramatists have sacrificed to keep control of their work and so, consequently, their copyrights mean a great deal to them.
When their work shows up in unauthorized productions, or on YouTube videos, it’s not just a matter of lost revenues. It is an infringement on the very nature of the dramatists’ authorship and a violation of their right to control their artistic expression. Even the non-commercial public use of their work by well-meaning fans, either on the internet or in amateur productions in their communities, can damage a show’s value in various markets, and it is a copyright violation under most circumstances. Most importantly, it undermines an author’s prerogative to decide when, where and how their work will be presented.
Therefore, we at the Dramatists Guild, on behalf of our 7000+ members and dramatists around the world, urge theater fans to respect the creators they admire by following the longstanding laws that protect authors. That’s how the artists you care about earn a living, enabling them to keep writing more of the work you love.