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Settlement reached in 'Urinetown' pissing match.

Playbill is reporting that the lawsuit against Akron, Ohio based Carousel Dinner Theatre, by the broadway team responsible for the original production of Urinetown  has been settled by the parties, with the Arkon producers paying the New York team an undisclosed sum, and acknowledging the unlicensed use of elements from the New York production.  

According to the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers,   the parties expressed regret over the circumstances leading to the suit, and agreed to terms of a license agreement for the material used without permission. 

The dispute arose in Late 2006 when the Akron company  (along with another at the Mercury Theatre in Chicago),  mounted productions of Urinetown which, in addition to the properly licensed uses of the book, score and lyrics of the show, also incorporated components of the Broadway direction, choreography and design.  Those elements were not licensed to the Illinois and Ohio productions. 

After a cease and desist letter  from the Broadway team’s entertainment lawyer and request for an accounting from the Broadway team,   the Carousel Dinner Theatre engaged its own attorneys, and  sued in the Ohio Federal District Court  seeking a declaratory judgment that the Akron production was ‘not substantially similar’ to the Broadway production.  

 The current settlement , according to a statement, acknowledges similarities in various elements  of the different productions, but also acknowledges some original contributions by the Akron cast.     

 The lesson for producers is clear.  Obtaining production rights from a publisher (such as Samuel French, Tams-Witmark, Rodgers & Hammerstein, etc.), does NOT include the right to copy all or part of the broadway, off-broadway or other original production.  It is incumbent on producers to either (a) obtain such rights separately, or (b) re-imagine the show and create a new, original production from the ground up. When in doubt… consult your attorney.

 

3 Responses to Settlement reached in 'Urinetown' pissing match.

  1. Actually, Katherine, it’s you who’s ignorant about the Urinetown cases (as well as rude).

    While I don’t agree with the Producers’ approach to things, the cases are NOT about the authors’ rights. The authors are, I’m sure, getting the royalties to which they’re entitled. As far as I can tell, the producers aren’t claiming a bigger portion of those than that to which they’re entitled by contract.

    The producers sued these other companies not because they produced the play (under license from the playwright, composer, lyricist), but because they copied significant portions of the New York PRODUCTION. (i.e., Designs, Direction, choreography, staging, etc.). These elements of a production don’t exactly belong to the authors… They belong to the Producers (arguably).

    This isn’t the first time this kind of issue has arisen (see, for example, Mantello v. Hall and the Tam Lin case).

    The bottom line is this. If a stock, amateur, or other company wants to produce a show, they’re welcome to do so, but they’re generally NOT permitted to copy elements of the original production, without specific permission from the owners of those elements. This can include lighting design, scenic designs, costumes, props, choreography, etc.

  2. Gordon, you have absolutely no idea about these cases. This is blatent attempt to get a cut of the authors royalty by the Broadway creative team. The writers have now gone on record saying it.

    I know as an attorney, you feel the need to tell people to consult an attorney, but you are so wrong about what lies underneath this facade.

    Sincerely,
    Katherine Seymour

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