Performing Copyright: Evaluating Authorship, Ownership and Integrity in the Theatre World

Mar, 04/05/2022 - 17:00 / 18:30

19, Via Parenzo

Speaker: Luke McDonagh , London School of Economics

Abstract

Dr McDonagh’s new book explores how copyright law concepts have been developed in the context of theatrical practice and performance from the time of Shakespeare up to the modern day of contemporary theatre. Utilising empirical interview data collected by the author, the book addresses several inter-connected questions: who is the author and first owner of a dramatic work? Who gets the credit and the licensing rights? Given the nature of theatre as a medium reliant on the re-use of prior existing works, tropes, themes and plots, what happens if an allegation of copyright infringement is made against a playwright? Furthermore, who possesses moral rights over the work? This final question is particularly important in the context of the integrity right in European theatre performance. The case of Godot (1992) saw the estate of Samuel Beckett successfully utilise French court procedures to block a purported performance in France of the play Waiting for Godot with women actors. However, a later 2006 case in Italy saw a different outcome. The Beckett estate sought an injunction against the Pontedera Theatre in Tuscany and its director Roberto Bacci to try to stop the Waiting for Godot performances featuring women. Nonetheless, the Italian court ruled the performances could go ahead, despite the integrity right issues raised, because these rights of the author had to be balanced with the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR of the director and performers.