The following letter, written by Dramatists Guild President Doug Wright, was sent to The New York Times on March 27, 2019, in response to their article "High School Alien Production Wins Internet Raves."
The Dramatists Guild of America finds so much to admire in the North Bergen High School stage adaptation of the hit film, Alien. It showcased the work of a devoted instructor determined to find unusual but exciting material for his teenage cast, young actors who reportedly performed the show with brio, and – judging from photographs on the Internet - a visual panache that rivals most professional companies.
We were disappointed, however, to see that the school did not seek permission from the rights owner to present a production of their show, since it was presented outside the context of closed classroom instruction and, therefore, constituted copyright infringement.
Admittedly, in this instance, the rights holder is a huge multinational corporation. But far more commonly, it is a single playwright, lyricist, or composer struggling to make a living off of their work. It is incumbent on high schools, and all academic institutions, therefore, to obtain the rights to the material they choose to perform, not only to avoid legal liability, but to protect the livelihoods of these authors, as well as to demonstrate to their students the appropriate values and behaviors related to the use of copyrighted material.
President, Dramatists Guild of America