Guild News – November/December 2022
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Copyright Registration of Single-Authored Musicals

Recently, there has been some confusion over which copyright application to use when registering a single-authored musical work: the Single Application (with a $45 fee) or the Standard Application ($65).

Upon review of the criteria, we have noted that eligibility for the Single Application requires the following:

• The registration must cover one work;

• The work must be created by one individual;

• All of the material contained within the work must be created by the same individual;

• The author and owner of the work must be the same person, and that person must own all of the rights in the work;

• The work cannot be a work that was made for hire.

We have received confirmation from the U.S. Copyright Office that musicals are deemed to be ineligible for the Single Application because they do not fulfill the first requirement. Specifically, for a registration to “cover one work,” that one work can only contain one type of authorship; a musical, however, contains both text and music, and so it is deemed ineligible for the discounted process.

Therefore, if you are the sole author of a musical’s book, music, and lyrics, you are advised to use the Standard Application—not the Single Application— just as you would with a multi-authored work. Under some circumstances, you may be able to use the group registration option for unpublished works, which, at the time of this writing, allows registration of up to ten unpublished works for a single fee ($85). Note, however, that registering your copyright is fact-specific, so you are encouraged to discuss the matter with your counsel, or to contact the U.S. Copyright Office.

 

Pirated Scripts on eBay: How DG Defended Your Copyright

Back in April, a Guild member contacted the BA HelpDesk to alert us to what appeared to be pirated libretti and scripts (many of which were written by DG members) that were being sold on eBay by a highly rated seller. The Guild’s Business Affairs team investigated the matter; it was determined that many (if not all) of these scripts and libretti were likely being sold without the authors’ permission, potentially infringing upon their copyrights.

Upon such determination, the BA team took action on two fronts in an attempt to get the potentially infringing scripts removed. First, we contacted the seller directly, informing them that unless they either received permission from the author(s) or purchased the scripts and libretti from a legitimate retailer, and were subsequently selling these lawfully obtained copies, then selling the scripts and libretti on their eBay page would likely constitute a claim for copyright infringement by the author(s). The message encouraged them to remove any listings that might be infringing, and also informed them that we would be contacting our members whose scripts were posted on their page.

After contacting the seller, we pulled the names of all the members whose scripts and libretti were listed on the seller’s eBay page, alerted them to the potential infringement, and encouraged them to either send a takedown notice to eBay or to message the seller directly. We are happy to report that within hours of alerting our impacted members, all of the infringing scripts and libretti had been removed by the seller.

We want to thank the member who first alerted us to the potential infringement, as well as all of the impacted members who reached out to eBay and the seller. It is because of this collective effort that we were able to successfully defend the copyright of so many of our members.

 

Writers Win Important Copyright Case with Help of Amicus Brief Co-Signed by the Dramatists Guild

On July 14, the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling in the case Starz v. MGM that is a significant win for writers nationwide. The Court upheld the right of all copyright owners (including dramatists) to sue for damages for copyright infringement beyond the statutory three-year period, when the infringement was—or reasonably should have been—discovered by the owner only after the three-year period had expired.

In the case, MGM had argued that copyright holders should only be allowed to collect damages for the three-year period before a suit is brought, rather than three years from when a copyright holder discovers -or reasonably should have discovered- that their work had been infringed. (This principle is called the “discovery rule.”) A federal district court in California initially denied MGM’s motion to dismiss the case based on the discovery rule, but MGM appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last November, the Dramatists Guild co-signed and supported the Authors Guild in an amicus brief, in support of Starz’s position, recognizing the possibly devastating impact that a ruling in favor of MGM could have had on the rights of playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists. Had the Court overturned the California district court’s finding in favor of MGM, dramatists would have been deprived of the ability to collect damages when they, through no fault of their own, had not become aware of the infringement for at least three years.

Such a change in the law would have harmed artists at a time when they are under increasing financial pressure and when their copyrights are increasingly difficult to enforce in a digital world where infringement is already widespread. Happily, the Court upheld the discovery rule, protecting dramatists everywhere.

The amicus brief was filed at the initial behest of the Authors Guild, joined by the DG and the other artists’ organizations, by pro bono counsel Benjamin H. Diessel, Nathan E. Denning, and Michael Rondon of Wiggin & Dana LLP.

 

Career Alert: Another Infringing Website

Have you heard of idoc.pub?

This website hosts a wealth of scripts, sheet music, and other forms of copyrightable material. Even if you have never posted your work on idoc.pub, someone may have done so without your permission.

The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund (DLDF) is currently collecting information from playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists who have had their work published on this site without having authorized it. To be clear, the DLDF is not offering to take any action on your behalf at this time, nor it is establishing any attorney-client relationship by seeking this information. The DLDF is merely trying to assess the scope of this website’s impact on dramatists.

If idoc.pub is making unauthorized use of your dramatic work, please contact David Faux at dfaux@dramatistsguild.com. Please be sure to include your name, contact information, and the titles of the implicated songs or shows in the body of your email.

Do you have additional questions about copyright infringement? The Business Affairs Help Desk is DG’s support portal that allows us to answer your business-related questions more quickly and efficiently. You can submit a query, or request a contract review, via our ticketing system.