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re: "Whose Production is it anyway?": violating Copyright in Theatre
Posted by: vegas 11:40 pm EDT 06/16/19
In reply to: re: "Whose Production is it anyway?": violating Copyright in Theatre - whereismikeyfl 10:14 pm EDT 06/16/19

You aren't missing anything. At least you now understand that no court has ever held that stage directors can't own copyright in their stagings.

As the published articles note, several directors with meritorious claims have won settlements from the infringers. I'm not aware of any meritorious claims that have been rejected.

But that doesn't mean there is no law on the question. The copyright rules governing directors are the same ones that govern choreographers. The basic rule is in 17 USC sec 102, which expressly recognizes copyright for the authors of motion pictures, dramatic works, audiovisual works, choreographic works, and pantomimes.

There is one case that does recognize, at an early stage of the proceeding, that stage directors can claim copyright in their stagings. And it's the Einhorn case. Here's the cite: Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions, 426 F.Supp.2d 189, 196 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). The defendant had filed a motion to dismiss, on the ground that the director's contributions were not copyrightable. The court denied the defendant's motion, saying it needed to see evidence as to fixation as well as an analysis of the director's contributions before it could make that determination. Accordingly, the court allowed the director's copyright claims to proceed to trial. That is a recognition, as a matter of law, that a director can own copyright in his/her contributions.

I think Einhorn is a good warning to would-be infringers. And it also offers some guidance to directors on what they should be prepared to show in order to support their claims.

Another useful case recognizes a magician's copyright in the stage directions of a magic act. Since a magician is, to a great extent, his or her own director, I think this case is relevant. It's Teller v. Dogge, 8 F.Supp.3d 1228, 1233 (D.Nev. 2014). The court expressly recognized that Teller's "series of stage directions" was copyrightable subject matter, and held that the defendant had infringed his work.

I hope this is helpful.
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