Dramatist article

Copyright Advocacy: Between Never & Forever

The year 2019 was a windfall for dramatists skilled at adapting works, as a large number of classics finally enter the public domain. Some of you may want to adapt works from other genres, e.g., Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, or Agatha Christie’s The Murder on Roger Ackroyd. Others may choose to adapt by simply updating something like George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan with contemporary edifice.  ...
Dramatist article

Copyright Advocacy: “We Shall Overcome” Could Not Overcome the Public Domain

The late Pete Seeger’s iconic civil rights song “We Shall Overcome” was thrust into the copyright limelight in 2017 when a New York federal court ruled that the original 1948 copyrighted version of the sheet music (with lyrics), which was owned by Seeger’s company, People’s Songs, Inc., had fallen into the public domain in 1976, thereby ending all copyright protection.
Dramatist article

Copyright Advocacy: Childress v. Taylor

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.” In 1985, actress Clarice...
Dramatist article

Copyright Advocacy: 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...
Dramatist article

Copyright Advocacy: The WGA Script Registry Is No Substitute For Copyright Registration by Larry Zerner

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...