"And if it Wasn't For Me[rrick], Then Where Would You be Ms. Gypsy Rose Lee?" An Argument for Copyright Protection for Theatre Directors Through a Reasonable Definition of Theatrical Stage Directions and an Understanding of the Theatre Company
Federal courts have yet to decide whether stage directions are copyrightable works, and it is unlikely that the Tam Lim lawsuit or the Urinetown controversy will bring such a decision. In the past decade, a federal court resolution as to the copyrightability of theatrical stage directions has been delayed by out of court settlements. Additionally, conflicting views by the legal6 and the artistic community's predictions of catastrophic consequences if copyright protection is extended to theatrical directors have blurred the predictability of a resolution. This article argues that theatrical stage directions should be afforded copyright protection. First, this article gives a basic background of the theatrical community; specifically highlighting the collaborative spirit, overwhelming respect for the director, and a collective desire by all players in this industry for its continued prosperity. This article then discusses the various suggested definitions for theatrical stage directions from reference sources and various members of the stage community and argues that a reasonable definition must take into account the suggested definition from directors. Relying on stage directors' point of view this article defines theatrical stage directions as: a director's interpretation of a written play performed under his control and fixed through a prompt book or a video-recording. Next, this article addresses the required elements for copyrightability: subject matter, original work of authorship, and fixation; and explains that theatrical stage directions can meet these requirements. Specifically, since copyright law protects the expression of ideas fixed in a tangible form, theatrical stage directions when written or recorded are the expression of the director's interpretation of a play and thus should be copyrightable. This article examines the potential issues of ownership affecting theatrical stage directions such as joint-works, work-for-hire, derivative works, and compilations. Next, this article explains that the limiting copyright doctrines of merger, sweat of the brow, and moral rights do not support arguments denying theatrical stage directions copyright protection. Finally, this article finds that giving copyright protection to theatrical stage directions not only promotes the continued success of the theatre community, but also supports the basic policy behind copyright law.
Guerrero, Carlos A.
""And if it Wasn't For Me[rrick], Then Where Would You be Ms. Gypsy Rose Lee?" An Argument for Copyright Protection for Theatre Directors Through a Reasonable Definition of Theatrical Stage Directions and an Understanding of the Theatre Company,"
Akron Intellectual Property Journal: Vol. 1
, Article 5.
Available at: https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronintellectualproperty/vol1/iss1/5