Comscore

Community Theatre and Production Rights

Larcen26 Profile Photo
Larcen26
Understudy
joined:5/21/04
While not technically Broadway, I figured somebody here would have some information...

I am looking to raise the profile of my Community Theatre group and was considering creating a Vlog series about the behind teh scenes goings on in creating the production.
Some people no the board are scared that something like that, would violate copyright or production agreement contracts. Does anybody know what the legal grounds concerning that sort of thing are?

Similarly, I would like to have clips from our shows on our website, but the same concerns came up...

Any thoughts?
Thanks
Baritone in search of a role in a new musical...
dramamama611 Profile Photo
dramamama611
Broadway Legend
joined:12/4/07
Filming bits and pieces for promotional reasons should be fine. Depending on who holds the rights for the show you are currently doing (or in the future) you can get a direct answer from them. MTI is fabulous about working with you, and even Tams has a phone number where you can talk directly to a rep..
If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
Liza's Headband
Broadway Legend
joined:5/28/13
No licensing company can limit the video you use for promotional purposes, provided it's not an entire filming of the stage production. You are granted freedom and flexibility when filming (and using) clips for promotional purposes only.

Just a note, though. If you are using a recording of a song from the show and you lift it off an actual cast recording, you are typically only permitted to use up to 30 seconds of that track. No more. If it's audio from your production, however, you are permitted to use as much as you'd like.

Hope that helps. But I'd still encourage you to get it cleared by every licensing agency in writing if your Board of Directors is really that concerned about liability.
Matt Rogers Profile Photo
Matt Rogers
Broadway Star
joined:10/4/04
You guys have just given this person incorrect advice that could potentially get him sued. He needs clearance before he films and posts ANYTHING. Also, in order to post little snippets for "promotional purposes", they would generally have to film the whole show first and then decide what they want to use, and most agreements are clear that video taping rights are not allowed. Those recordings then inevitably find their way into YouTube and that is where real problems can begin, especially if there is an existing film agreement in place with one of the major motion picture companies.

Short answer: Do not post any video unless you have cleared the rights.
dramamama611 Profile Photo
dramamama611
Broadway Legend
joined:12/4/07
Didnt we all advise him to get it cleared?
If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
Matt Rogers Profile Photo
Matt Rogers
Broadway Star
joined:10/4/04
Yes but you also told him that filming bits and pieces for promotional purposes should be fine.
PatrickDennis92
Understudy
joined:9/25/12
Do whatever you want. If it grows to a point where significant interest is being paid to whatever you're putting online, you will be contacted by whomever to cease, or negotiate, etc. If a legitimate holder of a copyright asks you to stop, then stop. They can only sue you for money if they can prove financial damages. As long as you're not making money (and in community theatre, you won't be) and as long as you're not misrepresenting the property then you're fine. They would never be able to claim you "damaged" the property, because if they are licensing to community theatres at all, then all the effective damage has been done. My guess is that no matter what you do it won't grow to a scale where anyone wants to pay a lawyer to even make a phone call.
Matt Rogers Profile Photo
Matt Rogers
Broadway Star
joined:10/4/04
Again, way to go, telling the original poster to engage in illegal activity, and your understanding of copyright law is half baked, at best.
dramamama611 Profile Photo
dramamama611
Broadway Legend
joined:12/4/07
SHOULD, does not mean IS. WE all told him to seek the advice of the company.

What he's talking about does NOT require him to film the whole thing.
If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
PatrickDennis92
Understudy
joined:9/25/12
Matt, in a very clinical sense, you are absolutely right. I was suggesting a more practical tactic because I live in the real world where if you want to do something, you have to just get out there and do it. Seriously, no one is going to care about this. But it may give their local theatre troupers some buzz, maybe some confidence, and if they get admonished for doing it, maybe they might even feel a little flattered that someone was paying attention. If everyone just sat around and played it safe, nothing would ever get done. Also, every community theatre tapes everything anyway.
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
I don't think Matt is being overly strict in his reading of the law. My only qualification is that the average community theater may not have the resources to make a lawsuit profitable, so a cease-and-desist order that is obeyed may end the matter. (On the other hand, do you and your board want to take that chance?)

When I worked at the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, we had to hire a composer to score our "B-roll" (a highlights reel given to TV news stations to run behind their reports). Otherwise, we would have owed royalties to the Gershwin and Porter estates every time the background footage ran.

Updated On: 7/16/13 at 07:33 PM
jennyb52 Profile Photo
jennyb52
Swing
joined:9/10/13
(Sorry for the long post) Our group is currently debating this issue as well. We're currently running Les Miserables, and of course everyone involved wants a DVD of it, but official board stance starting this season is absolutely not. Prior to this, like every community theater ever, we did tape. The issue came up due to a particular videographer building up quite a money making industry. Because people are now offering to donate time and media for distribution instead of any money changing hands, and also wanting to have an archival recording, we did reach out to our MTI rep. For those interested, this is his response:
"Thank you for your questions. I am one of the licensing agents here at MTI. It is so encouraging to see that you are asking these questions and wanting to do things correctly. Unfortunately, MTI does not own mechanical rights. So, the rights to video tape are simply not ours to grant. We do not really have the rights to say "yes" or "no". Our license simply states that it does not grant permission for you to videotape. We are required to inform you that it is against federal copyright laws to videotape. Disney hires authors on a work for hire basis and they secure mechanical rights before the shows are written. So, since they own the mechanical rights, the same federal laws do not apply to Disney titles.they are able to offer a video license. The times that a group would run into trouble is if a video were to be broadcast or sold for a profit, because that is when it crosses the line and is considered stealing the authors work. The federal laws that make it illegal to video tape most productions were written at a time before home video cameras existed. However,they are still on the books and we have no jurisdiction over federal laws. Currently, it is legal (for advertising purposes) to post 30 second clips. As long as no clip exceeds 30 seconds in continuous length and the total amount of clips used does not exceed 3 minutes, this is all right for advertising purposes. -Jesse"
JoeKv99 Profile Photo
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
Every community group and high school and the vast majority of colleges violate copy write in this way. If MTI or Tams Witmark decided to pursue legal action against everyone who records rehearsals of performances they would not have time to do anything else.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
Liza's Headband
Broadway Legend
joined:5/28/13
Just to provide more clarity... There is the common misconception that MTI actively pursues the schools, community theatre groups, etc. for posting videos on YouTube or selling video recordings of their show. Although that does violate the terms of the contract, MTI does not spend its time or resources monitoring this kind of activity. When the licensee (or user/poster/etc. in question) is "busted," whether by MTI or another entity, its because an assistant or attorney or other representative of a copyright holder -- an author, creator, producer -- found it and then notified MTI. Rarely has MTI ever pursued it on their own from what I understand.
D2 Profile Photo
D2
Broadway Legend
joined:12/3/06
R&H does.
Cheyenne Jackson tickled me. AFTER ordering SoMMS a drink but NOT tickling him, and hanging out with Girly in his dressing room (where he DIDN'T tickle her) but BEFORE we got married. To others. And then he tweeted Boobs. He also tweeted he's good friends with some chick on "The Voice" who just happens to be good friends with Tink's ex. And I'm still married. Oh, and this just in: "Pettiness, spite, malice ....Such ugly emotions... So sad." - After Eight, talking about MEEEEEEEE!!! I'm so honored! :-)
Matt Rogers Profile Photo
Matt Rogers
Broadway Star
joined:10/4/04
MTI has pursued it as well.

Don't be fooled by these people who are giving incredibly careless advice that "eh, it is illegal, but go ahead and do it anyway!"

You can and will receive a Cease and Desist at the very least and possibly legal action, depending on how aggressively the rights holders and/or film companies with exclusivity police their rights.

The advice that experienced veteran posters are giving these folks is incredibly irresponsible.

Bottom line--Ask for permission before you do this.
Matt Rogers Profile Photo
Matt Rogers
Broadway Star
joined:10/4/04
PS to my last -------

I can't tell you how many rights holders have Google Alerts set up, so they get an email from Google every time something mentioning their intellectual property is posted on line. So don't think that just because you are a community theatre in Pepperpot Park, North Dakota, that you can safely violate copyright law and no one will notice.
dramamama611 Profile Photo
dramamama611
Broadway Legend
joined:12/4/07
but as someone posted: for ADVERTISING you can use clips under 30 seconds as long as the entire thing is under 3 minutes.

And for the record: my school does NOT illegally film ANYTHING.
If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
Matt Rogers Profile Photo
Matt Rogers
Broadway Star
joined:10/4/04
No one said you did, but this 30 second thing is not true in every case. It depends on what the contracts that are already in place with film or other companies say.
CurtainsUpat8 Profile Photo
CurtainsUpat8
Stand-by
joined:6/1/13
I have a published play. I wouldn't care if a community theatre taped a scene to use for a commercial on Youtube. I think it would probably be good publicity for the show as well. It would bother me if they were selling the video to make a profit.

If it was a professional theater that would be totally different. I would let them do it but I would like to know that it was a limited tape. My play is not Les Mis, nor was it on Broadway, but it is being produced by many groups throughout the country. At this point I think the short promotional videos would probably be helpful. Other theatre companies would see the show and, hopefully, like what it looks like. I have videos on YouTube of productions of the show I have directed.

My opinion about Les Mis, and other smash hits like it, is that they have all made SO MUCH MONEY from that show they should just shut up and allow the promotional videos. If someone was selling the video and actually making a substantial amount from it, that might be different.

There are so many other things that concern me as a playwright. Digital Scripts. PDF Files of my script (and the score that goes with it) concerns me more. Once it is in pdf format you have no idea how quickly that spreads.
Matt Rogers Profile Photo
Matt Rogers
Broadway Star
joined:10/4/04
Nice of you to be so generous but again, it all depends on how litigious the rights holder is. Many times, it will be a person who controls an Estate who does not work and has nothing much to do but police their rights.

JoeKv99 Profile Photo
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
So Matt, tell me this: Why are there so many You Tube videos of various shows being performed by amateur groups, professional groups, hell, even original Broadway casts? There are literally and precisely MILLIONS of "illegal" videos posted- and if there are that many posted there are exponentially more burned on to DVDs rolling around closets and desk drawers.

Hmmmmmmm?
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
Matt Rogers Profile Photo
Matt Rogers
Broadway Star
joined:10/4/04
Sorry, Joe, your argument is hollow. It is akin to: "Well, heroin is illegal, but so many people do it anyway, so why shouldn't I get some too?!"

Just because morons are illegally posting their God-awful videos of copyright protected intellectual property does not make it right, and you can be sure that at any given moment, such videos are being yanked from YouTube when complaints are filed. But of course they can't keep up because there are just that many morons in the world. They also illegally post material from film and tv. The entire thing is a huge problem for the industry and condoning or justifying it on here does not help at all.
JoeKv99 Profile Photo
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
Matt I'm not saying to do it, I'm not saying it's right- what I am saying is that you are inaccurate when you tell this guy "You can and will receive a Cease and Desist at the very least and possibly legal action, depending on how aggressively the rights holders and/or film companies with exclusivity police their rights."

This guy is not talking about producing bootleg DVDs of Wicked and selling them on the internet and outside the theater- although, come to think of it, people do exactly that with impunity. A theater that posts short excepts to promote their show or records a performance to serve as a keepsake for the cast is not going to face huge legal ramifications for doing this no-good, very bad, totally illegal act.


No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
Updated On: 9/11/13 at 09:34 AM
Liza's Headband
Broadway Legend
joined:5/28/13
Matt Rogers is flat out wrong throughout this entire thread and thanks to the poster who passed along MTI's response, my statement regarding thirty-second clips from July has been confirmed. Matt - you do not know what you're talking about.
Matt Rogers Profile Photo
Matt Rogers
Broadway Star
joined:10/4/04
Oh really? Thanks for letting me know. That comes as a great surprise, since I have been working in this business my entire adult life. But I guess a sweaty headband would know better.

Advertisement
 
Advertisement