Once More unto the Breach, Dear Friends: Broadway Dramatists, Hollywood Producers, and the Challenge of Conflicting Copyright Norms

Carol M. Kaplan · 16 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. 297

Abstract

In recent decades, studios that own film and television properties have developed business models that exploit the copyrights in those materials in every known market and in all currently conceivable forms of entertainment and merchandising. For the most part, uniform laws and parallel industry cultures permit smooth integration across formats. But theater is different. The work-made-for-hire provisions that allow corporations to function as the authors of the works they contract to create do not easily align with the culture and standard contract provisions of live theater. Conflicts arise when material that begins as a Hollywood property tries to make the transition to Broadway. This Article explores the origins of these conflicting norms and their ongoing relevance to a relatively new relationship between Hollywood and Broadway characterized by a flow of intellectual property from screen to stage. It acknowledges that while measured accommodations may be necessary to allow the corporate owners of films and television shows to reinvent their properties on Broadway, there is good reason to avoid a wholesale change to industry norms in order to preserve the collaborative creative culture of US theater.