OVERVIEW

"The Guild established a New Media committee to explore the dramatist response to live streaming and the recording of an author's work."

For over 100 years, dramatists worked together in common cause. But we're not done.

The Guild is hard at work at laying the foundation for our next hundred years. For the first time in a generation, our industry is undergoing a tectonic shift. The "herd immunity" we established over the past century does not extend to the new and ever-changing landscape of theatre in a digital format.

It is in your best interest to engage with the Guild and your fellow writers as a member. Benefit from years of research BA staff has put into streaming practices if you want to understand your new contract in the context of the industry's shifting standards. Protect your intellectual property from ill-informed - if well-intentioned - collaborators.

In response to the seismic shift in our industry, Dramatists Guild leapt into action by creating the New Media Committee. This committee is at the forefront of investigating and researching live streaming practices from at-home DIYs to large non-profit theaters streaming archival performances, and you can help. We've created a survey for our members because you are on the front lines and we need your voice.

If you have either put your own work online or have been approached by a theatre to put your work online, we want to hear from you. What did you learn? What do you wish had gone differently? The New Media Committee will collect this information and use it to create a map of industry practices of live streaming theatre. Please answer this survey and pass it along to other dramatists to get their input. It is important that we have all voices represented. 

Thank you for taking the time to voice your experience. Your answers will help shape our industry. TAKE OUR SURVEY.

ARTICLES

"Don’t let the coronavirus become yet another reason used to battle against the idea of paying you for your artwork."

Theater companies that wish to livestream their productions need to find an accommodation with the various theatrical unions involved and adhere to all CDC protocols and local guidelines for the safety of their companies.

With regard to our members, authors have the right to approve livestreaming and/or recording of their shows. The Guild encourages you to exercise those approvals only after due consideration of such safety concerns, as well as other factors, like appropriate remuneration and the protection of your work against piracy.

While we believe this difficult time offers a unique opportunity for dramatists to embrace new technology and bring theatre to an even larger audience, you need to be properly advised before you permit your work to be livestreamed or recorded. This applies not only to new productions that have been cancelled or postponed, but also to the licensed productions of your work in theatres and schools, both professional and non-professional, across the country.

If you are a writer or a composer, it is important to contact your agent and your publisher to explore how they are handling livestream requests and how your income might be affected.

Things to think about:

  • What is the publisher's cancellation policy for licensees? 
  • What happens when a licensed play or musical is postponed rather than canceled?
  • Are you willing to pre-approve the addition of temporary live-streaming rights to your performance rights license?
  • How is the work being live-streamed? Will it be recorded? Will it have proper protections against piracy?
  • If a livestream request is made, how will the publisher notify you?
  • What process is in place to ensure that you are paid for each livestream of your work?
  • In terms of the impact on the future of your work, what are the distinctions between livestreaming a production and recording a production for subsequent viewing?

Please use the BA Help Desk if you have any further questions or would like to log a complaint.

Articles about Livestreaming:

Links to Publishers:

When theatres began canceling productions, many tried switching to live-streaming, some doing so successfully. While requests to livestream stage plays have dwindled with increased stay-at-home directives, there are still many reasons to study the industry standards we’ve already seen: live-streaming and archive streaming have many of the same issues; live-streaming may come back, and a subset of dramatists may be able to use live-streaming throughout this crisis.

Keep in mind that you, the author, must give permission for any streaming. Any special permissions should be only for the time of the coronavirus outbreak, whether that be keyed to an official state of emergency from a specific government, or a theatre’s ability to return to hosting live audiences. (1) The important thing is that streaming permissions should have an end date.

Most dramatists understand the urgency in permitting a stream of their works at this time: this might be the last royalty you see for a while, or might be a unique opportunity to get recognition in a historically saturated market. (2) You should inform your agents and other representatives whether you permit these uses, and under what circumstances.

(Even with the author’s approval, streaming a production could be stopped by other professionals, such as those represented by other theatrical unions and guilds.)

Authors get paid if, and when, any other person involved with the production is getting paid: director, actors, front-desk receptionist—anybody. Even if “nobody’s getting paid,” authors typically obtain their license fee, whether a flat fee, per performance, or a royalty against the advance. (3) Don’t let the coronavirus become yet another reason used to battle against the idea of paying you for your artwork.

To obtain a standard amount for these permissions, you still need to know how many audience members are seeing your work. Under no circumstances have we seen legitimate video streams of theatre works just sitting on YouTube or a theatre’s website, free for all the public to see, in full, whenever they want and however many times they want.

What the Guild has seen are restrictions that parallel the written agreement for live performance.  For example, a 99-seat theater that licensed a production for five performances would be allowed to stream to only 99 people, and only for five performances (no more than one per day).  Of course, an author could negotiate more “seats” and more “performances” as desired, so long as the royalty is likewise increased.  (4) Put boundaries on access and number of performances.

The larger theatres and licensing houses have been able to limit access to paying audience members through password protection. This presents a problem for mid-sized and smaller theatres because password protection can be a cost-prohibitive service. The Guild is still researching potential solutions for affordable password protection. (5) Send proven solutions for affordable password protection to dfaux@dramatistsguild.com.

Finally, consider what opportunities might be specific to you. We spoke to one theatre that had an archive of authors performing their own cabaret-style shows, streamlining permissions. We spoke to an individual who felt his particular, niche audience would pay if left to the honor code, and posted one of his own works. It’s easy enough to set up a Patreon account or put out your Venmo information. (6) Be creative when imagining new opportunities for employing your artwork.

David H. Faux
Of Counsel

Visit our Covid-19 Resources Page

CONTRACT

"It is the author’s exclusive right to approve presentations of their work. No organization or person has the right to present the author’s work in any form without first obtaining permission."

As theaters remain closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many producing organizations have moved to presenting livestreamed content. Specifically, producing organizations are looking to present works from their archives or convert previously contemplated live performances into digitally streamed performances.

To help you navigate these new uses of your work, we offer you a model Livestream Addendum agreement to revise your prior agreements to include such “digital rights”. This agreement reflects our research which included conversation with publishers, producing entities and unions. 

As we continue our conversations with industry leaders, we will update this agreement as necessary. But this addendum is not designed for theaters commissioning you to write an original work intended solely for digital performances (what we call a “Virtual Work”). If you wish to negotiate terms for licensing or being commissioned to write a virtual work, a separate agreement will be required (The DG is currently developing such a new media model agreement, in consultation with the Writers Guild of America East and the DG’s New Media Committee).

Before using this agreement, please recall the following:

1. It is the author’s exclusive right to approve presentations of their work. No organization or person has the right to present the author’s work in any form without first obtaining permission.

2. As with any presentation, authors should make sure that their basic authorial rights (script approval, creative approval, the right to be present) are preserved and that they receive standard royalties and billing credit.

3. Livestreamed and archive presentations are not equivalent to live stage presentations. Therefore, requests for subsidiary rights, producer billing and future options should be carefully scrutinized.

4. For livestreamed and archival presentations, special attention must be placed on efforts to protect against piracy. The presenting organization should be able to explain what type of technology is being used and what protections are in place to protect the author’s work from being copied, circulated, or viewed beyond the contemplated number of performances.

This is a template agreement; no one is obligated to use it. You need to read it completely and review its content, to make your own determination as to its applicability to your situation. Please make any changes that you deem necessary and be sure to make selections of those provisions that have been indicated with italics [in brackets].

The DG’s advice and guidance inferred from this model agreement does NOT constitute legal advice. Consultation with your personal attorney is advised.