Doug Wright
Doug Wright
May 29, 2020
A Message On Copyright From DG President Doug Wright

The Guild continues to protect copyright, so artists can be masters of the material they create.

Often, the Guild is working on  your behalf behind closed doors, in ways you might not be aware. Defending your copyright is one of our core principles, and it has never been more important than in the current climate, when in both corporate and academic interests are deriding the essential nature of copyright. Eliminating it as a fundamental precept would not only imperil the livelihood of dramatists, composers, lyricists and librettists, but it would also negate the cultural contributions made by individual, idiosyncratic and deeply original artistic voices. Our Copyright Advocacy Committee, chaired by Georgia Stitt, works in concert with other organizations to lobby congress, stem piracy and educate citizens about these issues.  And recently, an article in Forbes magazine featured Georgia Stitt and our own Executive Director of Business Affairs Ralph Sevush.

"There has long been an imbalance created by the DMCA between artists who try to make a living from their copyrights and the tech companies who have monetized the infringement of those copyrights. Those companies are in a better position (both technologically and financially) to police their sites than individuals who have to constantly search their own work to find infringers, then play “whack-a-mole” with take down requests to YouTube, where a bootleg is taken down and then pops up again somewhere else on their site. Now, given the amount of livestreaming going on, it’s even more critical that dramatists have control over the presentation of their works online. As freelancers, dramatists have no “employee” status, no collective bargaining, no health insurance, so it’s especially urgent for them to be compensated for the use of their work at this time. So we applaud the copyright office’s attempt to persuade congress to redress this imbalance. It’s the only applause our members are likely to hear for a while, under the circumstances." -Ralph Sevush, DG Executive Director of Business Affairs

"Much of the work we do at the Copyright Advocacy committee is in one of two categories. Either we’re educating the public about why copyright protection matters so much to the creative integrity and livelihood of artists — how literally an artist’s body of work is his/her PROPERTY — or we’re educating our own membership base about how best to protect themselves from the inevitable abuses that rob them of their ability to control or monetize the things they have spent their lives building. The distribution of bootlegs, in addition to being illegal, is part of a debilitating problem of the devaluation of music. Here’s one example. Let’s say I wrote a song last month. I spent weeks of my time (the result of years of school, private lessons, practicing, interning, gigging, etc.) writing the music and the lyrics, the arrangement, the piano part, the guitar part, the vocal line. I bought computer software to notate it and to record it. I bough a good microphone, a good piano, the right programs and interfaces. I hired a singer and some musicians to make a demo. I paid them. I sent that demo to a producer, who then asked me to write ANOTHER song on spec to be considered to write a show that might yield royalty income years from now when the show is up and running and selling tickets. In the meantime, I think — how can I monetize this product?  I can sell the song’s sheet music online. (But people photocopy and upload .pdfs of sheet music and trade them or, worse, sell them themselves without paying authors.) I can record the song and sell the recording myself, probably online on a store I’ve built into the website I pay for. (But people download and trade mp3s without paying for them. Spotify pays almost nothing to authors.) I can perform the song in a live venue and charge for tickets. (But people will bootleg that performance, devaluing the tickets and the rarity of the experience. And even that is performer income, not writer income. I’m lucky if I can do both; not everyone can.) I can pay someone to record my live performance and upload it MYSELF to my YouTube page, which I can monetize by selling ads. (Unless there are bootlegs out in the world, in which case my product has diminished value. Plus… the bootlegger might be monetizing his/her page, and I’m not seeing any of that income.) I can consider this song a loss-leader against the possibility that someone might one day hire me to write another song. Legal protections for intellectual copyright are the ONLY thing that allow me be a writer. " -Georgia Stitt, DG Copyright Advocacy Committee Chair

Doug Wright
President of the Dramatists Guild of America


Read the full Forbes article 
Read the report from the U.S. Copyright Office

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