Who owns the rights?

Copyright, the law and licensing the show

by Kevin N. Scott

Thank you for visiting this site, which began its checkered career as a way of organizing material for an article which was published in the Summer 1999 issue of Teaching Theatre quarterly, (Volume 10, Number 4). The article, as published, is available online at http://www.edta.org/ pdf_archive/ copyright2252001155629.pdf --
I wish to thank editor James Palmarini for his patience and assistance.
Please also note that a not-exhaustive listing of discovered errors and updates to the published article is posted here.

    I hope the information in both the print and Web versions proves helpful in dispelling a number of myths that have attached themselves to the general understanding of this subject. I would like to point out that, by my comments here, I am not trying to repudiate the philosophy of the director as an original, creative artist in the theatre. I am just pointing out how important it is to remember that artistic freedom must coexist with respect for the rights of others. Even famed theatre auteurs like Peter Sellars and Jonathan Miller reserve complete abandon for works in the public domain, and collaborate closely with living authors (or the representatives of those whose rights have survived them). (Conversely, in 1984 Samuel Beckett nearly closed down JoAnne Akalaitis�s American Repertory Theater production of his Endgame because she chose to set it in an abandoned railway station, rather than follow his stage directions. Though Beckett finally allowed the production, in 1994 his estate legally blocked the the European tour of an acclaimed British production of Beckett�s Footfalls because it departed from his stage directions.)

    Like all Web sites, this one is a work in progress, which will be updated as new material becomes available (and old links disappear), so repeat visits and constructive criticism are both invited.

    An article that may be of particular interest and importance to those who teach both drama and forensics is �Performance and Copyright: Avoiding the Pitfalls�, by J.G. Harrington, originally published in the National Forensic Journal, Volume VII, Number 2 (Fall, 1989), at pp. 127-132. There are some confusing differences among the various exceptions which may be available for the performance of certain materials protected by copyright without first obtaining the permission of the copyright owner, and the author distinguishes the educational exception, available under very specific conditions for all materials, and the free and non-profit performance exception, which is not so restrictive in its conditions, but which is available only for �non-dramatic� works.
When I approached Mr. Harrington about permission to post this article on this Website, he was quite concerned that it be understood that any refererence to �current copyright law� in the article was to the state of the law at the term the article was being researched and prepared for initial publication, and does not necessarily reflect the state of the law at the time of a later reading.

    Another excellent copyright Website of particular interest and importance to those who are involved in theatre at any level is � Copyright Laws for Theatre People� by Dr. Louis E. Catron, Professor of Theatre at the College of William and Mary. The site features a discussion of copyright issues related to producing playscripts (and a wealth of links to other Websites on related topics).

You can e-mail me at [email protected]
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The article (pretty much as it appeared)


And finally

plus a couple of bonuses

All original material Copyright � 1999-2009 Kevin N. Scott
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The original material on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
To request permission for commercial reproduction, please contact me at:
E-mail address: [email protected]
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Permission to reproduce work by other authors included in this site must be obtained from the owners of the copyrights on those works.
This page last updated on Friday, March 27, 2009
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