The director, choreographer, and set, lighting and costume designers of the original Broadway production of “Urinetown” have begun to pursue claims against two midwest theatre companies for allegedly copying their work without authorization.
Playbill reports that in response, the producers from one of the theatres has filed a lawsuit against the Broadway team.
The Broadway team's complaints arose after Choreographer Brian Loeffler won an award for his work on a production of Urinetown at Chicago's Mercury Theater. Loeffler also choreographed the other accused production, performed by the Carousel Dinner Theatre, in Akron, Ohio.
The Broadway team's union, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers provides legal services to its members in such situations. Ronald Schechtman, the lawyer for the team, sent a letter demanding that Loeffler formally return the awards he's won for his work on the show, and that the creative teams for both midwest productions provide a detailed accounting for their revenues, from which “an appropriate license fee and damages would be determined”. The Broadway creators threaten court action if these demands are not met.
In response, the Mercury Theater sent a letter denying the Broadway creators' claims, and the Carousel Dinner Theatre has filed an action in U.S. District Court, seeking a declaratory judgment that its production was substantially different from the Broadway production, and did not violate any laws.
Copyright protection for elements beyond the script and music of a theatrical show is an unsettled and ambiguous area of law. There have been at least two previous, high profile cases involving Broadway productions later reproduced elsewhere. Continue Reading