Guideline for Contracts between Playwrights and Theatres or Theatre groups
Provided by the International Playwrights' Forum of the International Theatre Institute (ITI)
Purpose of this guideline
The purpose of this guideline is to give you a list of points that can, but do not have to be in a theatre contract for playwrights. It is in no way a legal advice.
The copyright and other laws that apply to theatre contracts are different from country to country. There are no existing model-contracts and there will probably never be any in the near or far future. A contract between a playwright and a theatre or theatre group has to be made in accordance with the existing laws of the country.
Why a contract?
The experience of numerous playwrights has shown that a contract which is formulated in advance gives clear rules by which both sides must work and abide. Legal quarrals normally arrise when no policy is formulated in advance. It is therefore recommended that a contract be negociated.
What about the payment of the author?
There are no internationally fixed rules as to how much an author is paid for the staging of his or her play. Some countries have fixed rules, some do not. It is generally up to the discression of the playwright to decide how to regulate his or her fees: i.e. per performance; the whole production, etc.
Checklist for Contracts between Playwrights and Theatres or Theatre Groups
General remarks on the Copyright matter:
• Copyright protection generally means that certain uses of the work are lawful only if they are done with the authorisation of the owner of the copyright. The copyright owner is generally the author of the work.
• The laws of almost all countries provide that protection is independant of any formalities, which means that copyright protection starts as soon as the work is created.
• Copyright is limited in time. Many countries have adopted a term of protection that starts at the time of the creation of the work and ends 50 years after the death of the author.
• No country is obliged to give copyright protection, in particular to works of foreign authors, unless it is party to a treaty wich requires it to do so.
Important points to check
• The playwright grants the producer or theatre the right to produce and present the production of his play.
• There can be a time limit during which the producer has the right to perfomences of the play. It is also possible to put a time limit on the right for the first performence.
• The number of performances can be limited or open.
• The geographical area, where the performances will be presented can be limited.
• How are payments rendered to the playwright. And when. There are different ways: a flat rate for the whole production, a percentage of tickets sold, a payment per night – or combinations thereof. A playwright is not required to requested a fee. An author is well advised to settle the payments immediately after the last performance.
• No changes, alterations and/or omissions to the Play by the producer or theatre without the author’s consent.
• The playwright recieves billing credit in programs and advertisments of the play.
• Arrangements between playwright and producer or theatre about a possible showing in television.
• Any film rights.
These are the most important points that a playwright should take into consideration when negociating a contract.
Normally a country has some kind of a model contract that is provided by the Playwright’s or Authors’s Guild. Sometimes these countracts are very long and complicated, sometimes they are short with the basic essentials.
A playwright is well advised to get in touch with the appropriate guild in his country.
Contact. Further information:
If you have no connection to such an organisation, contact the national centre of the ITI in your country. The address can be found on the Website of the International Theatre Institute www.iti-worldwide.org
© 1997, 2001. The International Playwrights' Forum of the International Theatre Institute ITI