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Private: NYC Fringe Contract: WARNING!

Private: NYC Fringe Contract: WARNING!

The Guild has reviewed this year’s contract for the NYC Fringe Festival and believes it is problematic, as are the Festival’s application requirements.

Playwrights should be aware that the standard for fringe festivals around the world (including the US Association of Fringe Festivals , the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals, and the Edinburgh Festival, the model on which most other festivals are based) is that, as presenting entities that are not actually producing the work, festivals are not entitled to subsidiary rights from authors. The NYC Fringe, however, under Article IV-B of their contract, requires an author to pay 2% of subsidiary rights revenues earned within 7 years of the festival (after the author’s first $20,000). And the contract does not limit the scope of its definition of “subsidiary rights,” so it includes every use of the play on a worldwide basis; this is a definition broader than a LORT theater or even a commercial off-Broadway producer might be granted.

The Festival’s application rules also require the producer to pay the Festival an equivalent share of its subsidiary rights as well.  In addition, the rules require the payment of a $40 application fee, a $700 participation fee, and a significant share of the box office receipts. Regarding its box office share, the Fringe reports that, in 2015, they paid producers $10.44 for each full priced [$18] advance ticket they sold, and $9.78 for each full priced ticket sold at the door. In other words, the Festival kept 42% of advance sales and nearly 46% of door sales.  And the Fringe gets all that, plus a guarantee of future billing for the Festival, without any obligations to the playwright beyond “presentation . . . as part of the” festival.  There are no obligations specified (either in the contract or the rules) for the Festival to support the show with any particular expenditure of marketing monies, nor any warrant of proper billing for the author and the play in whatever marketing and advertising the Fringe might do, and there is also no guarantee of mutually acceptable venues or performance schedules for the play, nor any discussion of the festival’s duties with regard to providing technical support. Furthermore, it has been reported to us that the Fringe sent out its contracts to authors for this year’s festival at the end of July.  If that is true, then it was a contract presented only a few weeks before the festival was scheduled to begin, after money has been raised and spent, leaving little or no time for authors and producers to assess their options in good faith.

In light of all this, we are once again forced to warn playwrights (as we have in past years) about the varied and numerous sub-standard terms in the NYC Fringe contract and application rules. Also, please note that the “Douglas Wright” listed as an “adjudicator” on the Festival’s website is NOT the same Doug Wright currently serving as president of the Guild.