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What's New on the Rialto

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What's New on the Rialto


Uncompensated creator of Make-up
Designs will take her case to a jury!

In a case reminiscent of Rent dramaturg Lynn Thomson's ultimately successful battle for compensation and title page credit, the artist and designer who brought the cats in Cats to life with her imaginative make-up designs will now be able to take her own claims against the Cats producers to a jury, the Federal District Court in Manhattan has just ruled. Candace "Candy" Carell, whose designs helped the producer "fat cats" bring in over three billion dollars in worldwide grosses, was never paid for her creations. Instead, she has had to work hard for her measly $200 per week, supervising the application of makeup and teaching successive actors how to apply it. The producers have not even given her a raise in over 17 years, and will not provide health coverage. Most importantly, Carell has received nothing for her copyrighted designs, even after she won a battle in the Copyright Office, where a spiteful effort to cancel her copyrights was denied. Meanwhile, as the producers have continued to count their money, Carell was diagnosed with breast cancer, is unable to pay for needed medicine, and is otherwise in a precarious position because of her financial straits.

Unable to persuade the Cats producers to share any of the profits from the most commercially successful theatrical production in history, Carell finally sued for copyright infringement. In a 63-page decision, United States District Judge Allen G. Schwartz, the former chief attorney for the City of New York, denied a motion seeking to throw the case out, and ruled that the infringement claim must be allowed to proceed. The 18 defendants include an array of theatrical heavyweights such as The Shubert Organization, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Cameron Mackintosh, Inc. The Court rejected each and every argument which their attorneys made in their effort to get Carell's claim dismissed.

In particular, the federal court rejected arguments that Carell "waited too long" to sue. In fact, she consulted two attorneys early on, both of whom mistakenly advised her that the designs were not copyrightable -- advice later rejected by the Copyright Office and the Federal Court. Then she found an attorney who saw the light and filed her copyright registrations, but who later bailed out when he left his firm to become in-house corporate counsel. Her fourth attorney quit when he joined a firm that represented Cats producers. In the midst of all of this, Carell was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo years of debilitating medical treatments. On top of that bad luck, the Cats establishment sued her to try to revoke her Copyright registration. That suit lasted two years, resulting in a victory for Carell.

The real question should be: Why have the Cats producers allowed 18 years to pass without paying one of their key designers?

Carell is being represented by the same law firm that handled Lynn Thomson's Rent lawsuit. Thomson's claims were settled after a Federal Appeals Court gave her a green light to pursue an infringement action. The attorney who represented Thomson in the Rent case, Russell Smith, is co-counsel in the Cats case with Judith Jobin, who drafted the legal brief that resulted in this week's victory.

As we said to Thomson, so we say to Carell: You go girl! And don't give up! We're rootin' for ya.

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