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Re: [TheCostumersManifesto] Copyright and the theater

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  • Sylvia Rognstad
    Our Boulder Dinner Theatre did a production of Cabaret recently and while I had not seen the Broadway revival, I had seen photos of the cabaret host and the
    Message 1 of 13 , Jun 30, 2007
      Our Boulder Dinner Theatre did a production of Cabaret recently and
      while I had not seen the Broadway revival, I had seen photos of the
      cabaret host and the Boulder designer's costume for him was pretty much
      exactly the same. I gathered the rest of the costumes were also as
      similar as possible. I assume it was the director who wanted that look
      but I would have liked some originality. I will have to keep this
      article to show any directors I happen to work with in the future who
      ask for me to just copy a Broadway production.

      Sylrog


      On Jun 29, 2007, at 12:01 PM, llsturts@... wrote:

      > Yesterday, I was going through some past copies of 'Stage Directions'
      > magazines, before dumping them and came across the following article
      > in
      > the January 2007 issue. I couldn’t find it anywhere online, so here’s
      > the
      > copy verbatim:
      >
      > >From the IN THE GREENROOM column by Iris Dorbian
      >
      > COPYRIGHT BREACH?
      >
      > The notion of what can be considered intellectual property—or not—is
      > being
      > given an interesting twist with copyright infringement charges
      > recently
      > leveled against two Midwest theatres by the Broadway producers of the
      > 2002
      > hit musical, 'Urinetown'.
      >
      > According to an article by Campbell Robertson that appeared in the
      > November 15, 2006 edition of the 'New York Times', letters drafted by
      > a
      > lawyer, Ronald H. Shechtman, on behalf of the director John Rando, the
      > choreographer John Carrefa, and the set, lighting and costume
      > designers of
      > the Broadway production, were sent to the team involved in the
      > award-winning production at the Mercury Theater in Chicago and to the
      > team
      > behind the Carousel Dinner Theatre production of the show in Akron.
      >
      > The letters accused both companies of replicating the directorial and
      > design aspects of the Broadway productions. Though both companies did
      > get
      > permission to use the script and music of 'Urinetown', that did not
      > extend
      > to "reproducing creative decisions made by the Broadway production's
      > director, choreographer and designers."
      >
      > The Broadway team is demanding that both productions provide a
      > "detailed
      > accounting of all their revenues, from which an appropriate license
      > fee"
      > would be determined. They are also asking that Brian Loeffler, the
      > choreographer of the Mercury Theater production who won a Joseph
      > Jefferson
      > Award for his work return his award. If these demands are not met,
      > continues the article, then the Broadway team will seek damages in
      > court.
      >
      > What makes this case particularly noteworthy for the theatre
      > community is
      > that although the legal standard of copyright does protect the text
      > and
      > score, both of which are regarded as intellectual property, that does
      > not
      > necessarily apply to other elements of production.
      >
      > ***
      >
      > Anyone have any thoughts on this whole matter?
      >
      > One of my design philosophies, and what I teach my students, is just
      > because it's been done before doesn't mean it *has* to be done that
      > way
      > again. If there's a costume plot with a given script, it's nothing
      > more
      > than a jumping off place--what was done for the original production.
      > That's all fine and good unless you're working with a director that,
      > for
      > what ever reason, feels the need to duplicate that original
      > production.
      >
      > I’m in discussions right now with one such director: the play is a
      > musical
      > adaptation of a cult movie. The script has a costume plot that is more
      > detail specific than some I do for shows. I've tried to explain this
      > to
      > the director, but he's adamant that if it was in the movie, and the
      > original production, it will be used in our show. I'm balking at that,
      > needless to say. In one instance, the costume plot calls for the
      > leading
      > lady to wear a red shirt, and red is just not a color she can wear
      > well. I
      > think, by showing him this article, it will put an end to our
      > discussions...
      >
      > ~lisa.s
      >
      >
      >

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • k weast
      I teach at a small university where I direct and design. My philosophy and what I teach students is- if all one is doing is copying what some one else has done
      Message 2 of 13 , Jul 1, 2007
        I teach at a small university where I direct and design.
        My philosophy and what I teach students is- if all one is doing is copying what some one else has done then one isn't being a creator simply a mimic. As artists we are to create not copy. A monkey can copy but that doesn't mean he/she has done analysis, studied, and looked at the script through a "different" perspective. Creativity requires skill and intellect not stealing someone elses creative product.



        "Working in the theater has a lot in common with unemployment." - Arthur Gingold



        ---------------------------------
        Luggage? GPS? Comic books?
        Check out fitting gifts for grads at Yahoo! Search.

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Mom IS my real name
        My question, discussed here a few weeks ago, is still a little different. I ll word it more specifically than before: what to do with a designer , who is no
        Message 3 of 13 , Jul 2, 2007
          My question, discussed here a few weeks ago, is still a little
          different. I'll word it more specifically than before: what to do
          with a "designer", who is no longer affiliated with our non-profit
          and donated her time and talent, who now claims her "vision" is her
          property? She says we can't use costumes and sets she designed
          anymore. I say that's ridiculous, and I'm the one who could run out
          and copyright patterns I developed for costumes made after her
          renderings. Likewise, I say she can protect her drawings, but not
          her "vision", especially since half her vision isn't unique at all,
          and I can prove it. What a pain. If I made the same claim, the
          ballet company in question would be dancing naked, since they have
          hundreds of pieces that I both designed and built, and many that I
          even paid for so that I could realize my "vision"!

          Some of you have already commented on this, but it's still giving me
          stomach aches. This artist doesn't seem to realize what she's doing
          to her own reputation. Should we ask all contributors now to sign
          something allowing the company to use sets and costumes in
          perpetuity? Have any of you ever been asked to do such a thing, or
          do you assume your work belongs to theatre or company you designed it
          for?

          Based on the "Urinetown" case I understand the arguement that I can't
          design something for one production and then make an identical piece
          for another production unless I own the rights somehow. That's
          something else this designer needs to know. Affiliation with a new
          ballet company means she should develope a new "vision" for the
          ballets she's designed already. Yes?

          Janelle
        • Sylvia Rognstad
          Who now owns the sets and costumes she designed? I assume the theatre does, in which case, they can do anything they want with them. If the designer didn t
          Message 4 of 13 , Jul 2, 2007
            Who now owns the sets and costumes she designed? I assume the theatre
            does, in which case, they can do anything they want with them. If the
            designer didn't pay for the materials and left the sets and costumes
            with the theatre, they are not hers. Am I missing something here?
            Where are they physically?

            Sylrog

            On Jul 2, 2007, at 3:35 PM, Mom IS my real name wrote:

            > My question, discussed here a few weeks ago, is still a little
            > different. I'll word it more specifically than before: what to do
            > with a "designer", who is no longer affiliated with our non-profit
            > and donated her time and talent, who now claims her "vision" is her
            > property? She says we can't use costumes and sets she designed
            > anymore. I say that's ridiculous, and I'm the one who could run out
            > and copyright patterns I developed for costumes made after her
            > renderings. Likewise, I say she can protect her drawings, but not
            > her "vision", especially since half her vision isn't unique at all,
            > and I can prove it. What a pain. If I made the same claim, the
            > ballet company in question would be dancing naked, since they have
            > hundreds of pieces that I both designed and built, and many that I
            > even paid for so that I could realize my "vision"!
            >
            > Some of you have already commented on this, but it's still giving me
            > stomach aches. This artist doesn't seem to realize what she's doing
            > to her own reputation. Should we ask all contributors now to sign
            > something allowing the company to use sets and costumes in
            > perpetuity? Have any of you ever been asked to do such a thing, or
            > do you assume your work belongs to theatre or company you designed it
            > for?
            >
            > Based on the "Urinetown" case I understand the arguement that I can't
            > design something for one production and then make an identical piece
            > for another production unless I own the rights somehow. That's
            > something else this designer needs to know. Affiliation with a new
            > ballet company means she should develope a new "vision" for the
            > ballets she's designed already. Yes?
            >
            > Janelle
            >
            >
            >

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • David
            The pieces themselves belong to the theatre whether she was paid or not. She would only have a leg to stand (on point?) on if the company was planning a
            Message 5 of 13 , Jul 2, 2007
              The pieces themselves belong to the theatre whether she was paid or
              not. She would only have a leg to stand (on point?) on if the company
              was planning a ocmplete remount of the production without coming to
              some kind of financial arrangement with her.

              --- In TheCostumersManifesto@yahoogroups.com, Sylvia Rognstad
              <sylvia@...> wrote:
              >
              > Who now owns the sets and costumes she designed? I assume the
              theatre
              > does, in which case, they can do anything they want with them. If
              the
              > designer didn't pay for the materials and left the sets and
              costumes
              > with the theatre, they are not hers. Am I missing something here?
              > Where are they physically?
              >
              > Sylrog
              >
              > On Jul 2, 2007, at 3:35 PM, Mom IS my real name wrote:
              >
              > > My question, discussed here a few weeks ago, is still a little
              > > different. I'll word it more specifically than before: what to do
              > > with a "designer", who is no longer affiliated with our non-
              profit
              > > and donated her time and talent, who now claims her "vision" is
              her
              > > property? She says we can't use costumes and sets she designed
              > > anymore. I say that's ridiculous, and I'm the one who could run
              out
              > > and copyright patterns I developed for costumes made after her
              > > renderings. Likewise, I say she can protect her drawings, but not
              > > her "vision", especially since half her vision isn't unique at
              all,
              > > and I can prove it. What a pain. If I made the same claim, the
              > > ballet company in question would be dancing naked, since they
              have
              > > hundreds of pieces that I both designed and built, and many that
              I
              > > even paid for so that I could realize my "vision"!
              > >
              > > Some of you have already commented on this, but it's still
              giving me
              > > stomach aches. This artist doesn't seem to realize what she's
              doing
              > > to her own reputation. Should we ask all contributors now to sign
              > > something allowing the company to use sets and costumes in
              > > perpetuity? Have any of you ever been asked to do such a thing,
              or
              > > do you assume your work belongs to theatre or company you
              designed it
              > > for?
              > >
              > > Based on the "Urinetown" case I understand the arguement that I
              can't
              > > design something for one production and then make an identical
              piece
              > > for another production unless I own the rights somehow. That's
              > > something else this designer needs to know. Affiliation with a
              new
              > > ballet company means she should develope a new "vision" for the
              > > ballets she's designed already. Yes?
              > >
              > > Janelle
              > >
              > >
              > >
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              >
            • Curtis
              ... There s a whole category of copyright law on issues just like this, which is called work for hire (or something similar, but in more elaborate
              Message 6 of 13 , Jul 3, 2007
                --- In TheCostumersManifesto@yahoogroups.com, "David" <djuby@...> wrote:
                >
                > The pieces themselves belong to the theatre whether she was paid or
                > not. She would only have a leg to stand (on point?) on if the company
                > was planning a ocmplete remount of the production without coming to
                > some kind of financial arrangement with her.

                There's a whole category of copyright law on issues just like this,
                which is called 'work for hire' (or something similar, but in more
                elaborate legalese...)

                When you contract to do work for someone, whether it is for pay or
                not, unless you stipulate in the contract that you retain the
                intellectual property rights, the party for whom the work was done
                owns the rights. ALL the rights. The example I mentioned was from
                the comic book industry...Stan Lee doesn't actually own Spiderman, for
                instance... Marvel Comics does. Stan Lee runs Marvel Comics, so he
                has de facto creative control...but other characters (a whole swarm of
                characters in X-Men and their derived titles) were created by other
                writers--who no longer have any say over what happens to their
                characters, and get no additional royalties regardless of how often
                their character gets used. Artists get no additional compensation if
                Marvel decides to use one of their images to make a poster that sells
                worldwide. (It's actually something of a sore point between many
                former employees and the company, even though it's the same with most
                of the major companies...the others just aren't as ruthless about it
                as Marvel has been).

                So there is no debate. If she does any research at all, she'll learn
                that she's got no rights on any of the stuff she's done for you. And,
                quite frankly, I'm amazed that she ever believed she did...I've never
                before heard of such a thing. Even if there wasn't all the extant
                copyright law that says she's wrong, there's a long string of existing
                precedents...which generally come into play when the law is hazy. I
                don't know a single designer who claims creative control of work
                they've done for hire...not even the ones who did stuff for the Salt
                Lake Olympics (not that anyone's about to remount THAT production,
                but...) It was patently obvious that they were doing the work for
                someone else, and once they were done, their involvement in the
                project was over. PERIOD.
              • Mom IS my real name
                All of the costumes in question are for ballets in the company s repertoire, which means they are used as frequently as annually (Nutcracker), and as
                Message 7 of 13 , Jul 3, 2007
                  All of the costumes in question are for ballets in the company's
                  repertoire, which means they are used as frequently as annually
                  (Nutcracker), and as infrequently as every four to six years. A few
                  new matching pieces have to be made to fit new dancers each cycle. All
                  of the costumes are in the posession of the ballet company, in a
                  locked "closet" in the same facility as the rehearsal studios. Except
                  for the Artistic Director and choreographers, this company is an
                  entirely volunteer run non-profit and has been for 30 years. As in so
                  much "little theatre" even the performers are unpaid, happy for the
                  exposure and the chance to dance on stage.

                  I think the whole thing is crazy. As a volunteer, I'm always just
                  thrilled to see my work on stage. Why would I want to own it?! This
                  person's work is beautiful. She's easy to work with and the dancers
                  feel so special in the costumes we've made from her designs. I feel
                  terrible that this is happening.

                  Janelle
                • Sylvia Rognstad
                  Has the designer hired a lawyer? It doesn t sound like she has a leg to stand on (no pun intended, although it is a ballet company) even with an attorney. ...
                  Message 8 of 13 , Jul 3, 2007
                    Has the designer hired a lawyer? It doesn't sound like she has a leg
                    to stand on (no pun intended, although it is a ballet company)
                    even with an attorney.


                    On Jul 3, 2007, at 10:39 AM, Mom IS my real name wrote:

                    > All of the costumes in question are for ballets in the company's
                    > repertoire, which means they are used as frequently as annually
                    > (Nutcracker), and as infrequently as every four to six years. A few
                    > new matching pieces have to be made to fit new dancers each cycle. All
                    > of the costumes are in the posession of the ballet company, in a
                    > locked "closet" in the same facility as the rehearsal studios. Except
                    > for the Artistic Director and choreographers, this company is an
                    > entirely volunteer run non-profit and has been for 30 years. As in so
                    > much "little theatre" even the performers are unpaid, happy for the
                    > exposure and the chance to dance on stage.
                    >
                    > I think the whole thing is crazy. As a volunteer, I'm always just
                    > thrilled to see my work on stage. Why would I want to own it?! This
                    > person's work is beautiful. She's easy to work with and the dancers
                    > feel so special in the costumes we've made from her designs. I feel
                    > terrible that this is happening.
                    >
                    > Janelle
                    >
                    >
                    >

                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Julia Trimarco
                    When I was in college, I learned that in the Ballet world, unlike many other areas of the performing arts, a ownership of a particular production includes all
                    Message 9 of 13 , Jul 28, 2007
                      When I was in college, I learned that in the Ballet world, unlike many other areas of the performing arts, a ownership of a particular production includes all aspects of staging and design. Case in point, Ballanchine's Nutcracker, as performed by the NYCB for decades. Tying the choreography to the orchestral arrangements to the production design for perpetuity is a more obvious necessity in the dance world. However, I would like to see Designers be afforded more property rights than they have been. Like the discussion of intellectual property regarding the fashion world on this page, this is very similiar. Of course you can never stop people from copying details, or even a whole costume for use in a different play. But for a stage production, the line can be even more clearly drawn than in fashion. If the design of an entire production is copied, the fraud is pretty obviously intentional. The key is in the contract. I've learned that nothing replaces a
                      good written contract, and anyone who enters a work agreement without one, is asking for trouble.
                      -Jypsie


                      ----- Original Message ----
                      From: Sylvia Rognstad <sylvia@...>
                      To: TheCostumersManifesto@yahoogroups.com
                      Sent: Saturday, June 30, 2007 5:55:07 PM
                      Subject: Re: [TheCostumersManifesto] Copyright and the theater

                      Our Boulder Dinner Theatre did a production of Cabaret recently and
                      while I had not seen the Broadway revival, I had seen photos of the
                      cabaret host and the Boulder designer's costume for him was pretty much
                      exactly the same. I gathered the rest of the costumes were also as
                      similar as possible. I assume it was the director who wanted that look
                      but I would have liked some originality. I will have to keep this
                      article to show any directors I happen to work with in the future who
                      ask for me to just copy a Broadway production.

                      Sylrog

                      On Jun 29, 2007, at 12:01 PM, llsturts@greatlakes .net wrote:

                      > Yesterday, I was going through some past copies of 'Stage Directions'
                      > magazines, before dumping them and came across the following article
                      > in
                      > the January 2007 issue. I couldn�t find it anywhere online, so here�s
                      > the
                      > copy verbatim:
                      >
                      > >From the IN THE GREENROOM column by Iris Dorbian
                      >
                      > COPYRIGHT BREACH?
                      >
                      > The notion of what can be considered intellectual property�or not�is
                      > being
                      > given an interesting twist with copyright infringement charges
                      > recently
                      > leveled against two Midwest theatres by the Broadway producers of the
                      > 2002
                      > hit musical, 'Urinetown'.
                      >
                      > According to an article by Campbell Robertson that appeared in the
                      > November 15, 2006 edition of the 'New York Times', letters drafted by
                      > a
                      > lawyer, Ronald H. Shechtman, on behalf of the director John Rando, the
                      > choreographer John Carrefa, and the set, lighting and costume
                      > designers of
                      > the Broadway production, were sent to the team involved in the
                      > award-winning production at the Mercury Theater in Chicago and to the
                      > team
                      > behind the Carousel Dinner Theatre production of the show in Akron.
                      >
                      > The letters accused both companies of replicating the directorial and
                      > design aspects of the Broadway productions. Though both companies did
                      > get
                      > permission to use the script and music of 'Urinetown', that did not
                      > extend
                      > to "reproducing creative decisions made by the Broadway production's
                      > director, choreographer and designers."
                      >
                      > The Broadway team is demanding that both productions provide a
                      > "detailed
                      > accounting of all their revenues, from which an appropriate license
                      > fee"
                      > would be determined. They are also asking that Brian Loeffler, the
                      > choreographer of the Mercury Theater production who won a Joseph
                      > Jefferson
                      > Award for his work return his award. If these demands are not met,
                      > continues the article, then the Broadway team will seek damages in
                      > court.
                      >
                      > What makes this case particularly noteworthy for the theatre
                      > community is
                      > that although the legal standard of copyright does protect the text
                      > and
                      > score, both of which are regarded as intellectual property, that does
                      > not
                      > necessarily apply to other elements of production.
                      >
                      > ***
                      >
                      > Anyone have any thoughts on this whole matter?
                      >
                      > One of my design philosophies, and what I teach my students, is just
                      > because it's been done before doesn't mean it *has* to be done that
                      > way
                      > again. If there's a costume plot with a given script, it's nothing
                      > more
                      > than a jumping off place--what was done for the original production.
                      > That's all fine and good unless you're working with a director that,
                      > for
                      > what ever reason, feels the need to duplicate that original
                      > production.
                      >
                      > I�m in discussions right now with one such director: the play is a
                      > musical
                      > adaptation of a cult movie. The script has a costume plot that is more
                      > detail specific than some I do for shows. I've tried to explain this
                      > to
                      > the director, but he's adamant that if it was in the movie, and the
                      > original production, it will be used in our show. I'm balking at that,
                      > needless to say. In one instance, the costume plot calls for the
                      > leading
                      > lady to wear a red shirt, and red is just not a color she can wear
                      > well. I
                      > think, by showing him this article, it will put an end to our
                      > discussions. ..
                      >
                      > ~lisa.s
                      >
                      >
                      >

                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]






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