Before You Sign - The Monthly Dramatists Guild Newsletter
May/June 2022
For Collaborators
When Should I Give Someone a Co-Writing Credit?
When our members were hard at work writing and revising pieces for End of Play.®, the Guild received a number of inquiries asking when it might be appropriate to give someone a co-writing credit.

To answer that question, first it is important to understand one of the basic fundamentals of copyright law: the idea/expression dichotomy. Under copyright law, only an author’s original expressions that are fixed in a tangible medium (i.e. written down or recorded) are protected by copyright; ideas and concepts are not. This measure prevents someone from claiming ownership over standard tropes such as the “vigilante superhero” because if concepts like this could be owned, the impetus to create would come to a screeching halt, as there would be a barrier to nearly every story a writer may want to tell.

Instead, copyright only attaches to the original expressions of those ideas and concepts – that’s why we can have both a Batman and a Daredevil.  It is this idea/expression dichotomy that should inform your thinking when you are considering giving someone a co-writing credit; you should ask yourself whether this person contributed original expressions to your work rather than mere concepts or ideas

Furthermore, you should evaluate how much original expression a person actually contributed. If it is one line or a lyric, which you as the author have the sole right to keep or reject, then that does not merit a co-writing credit since the ultimate decision to include it rests with you. This notion comes from the doctrine of joint authorship.

Under U.S. Copyright Law, in order for someone to be considered a joint author to a work, they must contribute an independent copyrightable contribution AND there must be intention by the authors to be co-authors. Intention can be measured by the level of control of a person exerts over the work, i.e. if the decision to include something or not lies solely with one person, then that would demonstrate an intention NOT to be co-authors. 

You should also take into consideration the role that person has played in the process overall. Theatre is inherently collaborative; writers receive suggestions from directors, dramaturgs, actors, and designers all the time during the production process. Some of these collaborative artists may even contribute original expressions, but that is what they have been hired and paid to do. Whereas, you as the author, an independent contractor who owns your copyright, are compensated via the licensing of your work. Think about it this way: an author may give notes to an actor, but that does not make them a co-director, entitling them to receive half the director’s compensation; thus. a director providing suggestions to an author does not make them a co-author. 

One question we receive after we explain why a person should not be a co-author is “But this person was so helpful in my writing process, I want to give them credit to say thank you for their contributions. Can I give them a ‘Developed by’ or ‘Concept by’ credit?” 

The short answer is that you can, but we strongly advise against it. This goes back to the idea/expression dichotomy: concepts are not copyrightable. Furthermore, once you give a credit that even remotely implies authorial contribution, you are opening yourself up for potential claims by that person for co-authorship, which you were trying to avoid in the first place. 

Finally, if you have determined that the person you are working with is indeed a co-author, we strongly urge you to enter into a collaboration agreement. Without a collaboration agreement in place, your relationship with your co-author(s) will be governed by the doctrine of joint authorship. This is important to note because joint authorship gives co-authors the right to: 

  • (a) require unanimous consent to issue an exclusive license
  • (b) issue non-exclusive licenses for the entire work without the approval of the other(s)
  • c) share equally in the profits of any kind earned by the work

However, you and your co-author(s) may want to define your rights and obligations differently. You can find templates for collaboration agreements for both a play and a musical here:

For more information on co-authorship, check out the following articles:

Career Training Webinars
New Career Training Webinars Available to View Online
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As a dramatist, it is essential for you to know the key industry standards, established in the Dramatist's Bill of Rights, so that you can successfully advocate for yourself as a writer.

In this webinar, you'll learn about the life cycle of copyright, how to register your work, how to manage your intellectual property over its lifetime, and more.

Check out this webinar, featuring Copyright Claims Board attorneys Maya Burchette and Dan Booth, to learn how to bring your claims for copyright infringement to the new Copyright Claims Board in a more cost efficient way.

Learn about commissions, advances, royalties, and other forms of compensation from theatrical productions, so that you’ll be informed and empowered to negotiate for your own equitable compensation based on current industry standards.

Featured Events
Compensation Panel Part Three: Music Compensation
Thursday, June 16

Atlantic Time: 4pm
Eastern Time: 3pm
Central Time: 2pm
Mountain Time (D): 1pm
Mountain Time (S): 12pm
Pacific Time: 12pm
Alaska Time: 11am
Hawaii Time: 9am

Learn about the process of licensing your song or musical from multiple industry perspectives!

When do you get paid for writing a musical? What happens if somebody wants to license a song from your show? How can you be sure that you're being compensated according to industry standards?

Join Sean Flahaven (Chief Theatricals Executive at Concord Theatricals), Kirsten Childs (composer/lyricist/librettist of Bella: An American Tall Tale and The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin), and Jeanine Tesori (composer of Kimberly Akimbo, Caroline or Change, and Fun Home), for a conversation on music compensation moderated by Ralph Sevush (DG Executive Director of Business Affairs)
The panelists will share their experiences and expertise as they help you discover what terms like "grand rights" and "small rights" mean, the difference in royalties for a play vs. a musical, and whether the addition of other musical collaborators (such as orchestrators and arrangers) impacts how you're likely to be compensated for your work.

The more you know about the industry standards from both the creative and business perspectives, the more informed and empowered you'll be when it's time to get to work on your next musical project!
The History of our Advocacy:

Why and What Writers Fight For
Tuesday, June 7

Atlantic Time: 4pm
Eastern Time: 3pm
Central Time: 2pm
Mountain Time (D): 1pm
Mountain Time (S): 12pm
Pacific Time: 12pm
Alaska Time: 11am
Hawaii Time: 9am

How have American dramatists advocated for themselves over the past two centuries? How has the law evolved over that time in ways that impact playwrights’ lives and their efforts to make a living at their craft? Where has this history left dramatists today?
In the Guild's first advocacy event of the year, Emmanuel Wilson (DG Executive Director of Creative Affairs) interviews Ralph Sevush (DG Executive Director of Business Affairs) and special guest Brent Salter (author of Negotiating Copyright in the American Theatre) to discuss the history of theatre writers advocating for themselves and their evolving legal status. Salter's in-depth archival research -- including his research into the Guild’s own archives -- has given him insights into how writers sought to protect their work through collective minimum contracts (such as the "MBA"... now known as the "APC"), as well as professional norms, standards and practices, and more. 
Healing from Gun Violence Through Creation and Advocacy
Wednesday, June 8

Atlantic Time: 7pm
Eastern Time: 6pm
Central Time: 5pm
Mountain Time (D): 4pm
Mountain Time (S): 3pm
Pacific Time: 3pm
Alaska Time: 2pm
Hawaii Time: 12pm

Please join us for a two-hour healing work session, presented in collaboration with #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence and with support from the Sandy Hook Promise. This event will be an opportunity to come together and work in silent community to create something new in response to recent events. You can use the time to focus on a writing project or an advocacy initiative of their choice, such as #ENOUGH's Dear Lawmaker's campaign.

Click here to learn more about the programming and schedule for the healing session.

#ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence calls on teens to confront gun violence by creating new works of theatre that will spark critical conversations and inspire meaningful action in communities across the country. Their mission is to promote playwriting as a tool for self-expression and social change, harnessing this generation's spirit of activism and providing a platform for America's playwrights of tomorrow to discover and develop their voices today.
Introducing The Entertainment Community Fund!

(Formerly Known as The Actors Fund)
As of May 2022, the Actors Fund has rebranded itself as The Entertainment Community Fund. The organization also has a new tagline: Supporting a life in the arts.

The Entertainment Community Fund hopes that this name change will help serve to clarify the ultimate goal of the organization, which is to provide support for all members of the entertainment industry, including -but not limited to- actors. 

"We are committed to amplifying our impact around the country," said Entertainment Community Fund President Joe Benincasa in an interview with Broadway News. "We want to reach out to more people in the entertainment community so that they know that we are here to help them."

As a member of the Dramatists Guild, you are eligible for the Entertainment Community Fund's services. If you are in need of healthcare, financial assistance, affordable housing, or career enrichment, click here.
The Lillys Unveiling of Lorraine Hansberry Sculpture Installation

The Installation is part of the The Lilly Awards Foundation’s Lorraine Hansberry Initiative, honoring the late playwright.
The Installation is part of The Lillys’ Lorraine Hansberry Initiative, honoring the late playwright.

The Lillys will display Alison Saar’s sculpture installation, To Sit a While, depicting playwright and DG Council member Lorraine Hansberry, on June 9-12 in Times Square (by the TKTS steps at Broadway and 47th Street), followed by two other New York City installations: The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (June 13–18) and Brooklyn Bridge Park (June 23-29). 

The figure of Hansberry is surrounded by five bronze chairs, each representing a different aspect of her life and work. The is taken from a line in A Raisin in the Sun, “Never be afraid to sit a while and think.” The life-size chairs are an invitation to the public to do just that: in contemplation with Lorraine. 

The June 9 unveiling will feature the statue’s sculptor Alison Saar, Lynn Nottage, LaChanze, Janai Nelson (NAACP LDF), and Mamie Hansberry, Lorraine’s older sister, ninety-nine years young. 

The sculpture installation will tour the country in 2022-2023 to raise awareness of the full breadth of Hansberry’s work. After its stay in New York City, the statue will travel to Philadelphia, Detroit, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C. (Howard University,) Atlanta (Spelman College), Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago (Hansberry’s birthplace, which will enjoy an enhanced celebration and permanent installation). In each city, the Initiative will work with local theaters and social justice organizations to showcase the work of contemporary writers and civil rights activists concurrent with the sculpture’s placement.

The second piece of the Initiative, is a 2.5 million dollar endowed scholarship fund The Lillys have created in Lorraine’s name. 

"We know that graduate school is the primary gateway to a career as a dramatic writer," added Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nottage. "In my twenty years of teaching at the graduate level, I have had only four Black female students. If we want theatre to tell the full story of humanity, we need to nurture the full breadth of talent."

Starting in 2023, two female or non-binary dramatic writers of color a year entering graduate school will be gifted $25,000 every year of their education, with an additional two students added every subsequent year. The scholarship will not cover tuition, which is the burden of the schools themselves. The unique Hansberry Scholarship will be directed towards the recipients' living expenses and buy them protected time to actually write. 

Show your support by visiting the Lorraine Hansberry Initiative website to make a donation.
End of Play.®
End of Play.® 2022: The Stats and Numbers
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Thank you for dedicating the month of April to your project and to your writing. We're thrilled by your hard work, and passion, and creativity, and we wanted to share some End of Play.® stats with you. 

From April 1 - April 30, 2022, there were over 1,250 End of Play.® participants who cumulatively wrote 4,828 new pages. These playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists succeeded in bringing numerous plays, musicals, songs, and scenes into existence, creating new stories that only they could tell from their unique perspectives.

We held 47 End of Play.® events, including five national events and 42 regional events that took place across 15 different regions nationwide. These events included an online structure workshop, a synopsis workshop, and many other motivational, community building gatherings at which writers shared their work, discussed their writing goals, and cheered each other on.

During the month of April, we also offered 51 National Silent Writing sessions, across nine different regions, where End of Play.® participants could gather virtually to work on their writing projects.

Additionally, we shared 11 prompts from DG Council Members and DGI Faculty that helped to inspire our End of Play.® participants throughout the four weeks of writing.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the third annual End of Play.® writing challenge! See you in 2023.
The Dramatist
The Atlanta Issue
Our first regionally-focused issue in over two years, The Atlanta Issue provides an overview of opportunities and resources in the Atlanta-Metro area. Along with special guest editors Laura King and Pamela Turner, many of your peers share first-hand accounts of their experiences with Atlanta-area theatres, development centers, festivals, groups, and other resources.

Also in this issue, Kait Kerrigan explains “What Copyright Means to Me,” Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu and Charles L. White answer a “Ten Questions” double feature, and Kristoffer Diaz explains “Why I Joined the Guild.”
Dramatist to Dramatist
Ty Defoe with Special Guest Joann Yarrow

Moderated by Dominic D'Andrea
DG Council member and playwright Ty Defoe recently spoke with Joann Yarrow, Syracuse Stage's Director of Community Engagement and Education, in a conversation moderated by New York State Rep Dominic D’Andrea. The discussion focused on Seeds of Peace, a Native story written by Defoe in collaboration and consultation with the Onondaga Nation in Central New York. Watch the video to learn more about Native theatre, working with and caring for community stories, intersectionality, and how PWI’s might responsibly engage with Native communities and other populations.
Local Events
The Playwright As Activist: Lorraine Hansberry's Legacy
Monday, June 13

Eastern Time: 6:30pm

Join the Lillys at the Museum of the City of New York for a conversation on Lorraine Hansberry's Legacy! Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage will explore the notion of theatre as activism, as well as the impact of Hansberry's work, with fellow playwrights Erika Dickerson-Despenza and Lisa Kron.

This program is co-presented by The Lillys as part of their Lorraine Hansberry Initiative. Please note that this is an in-person event. Both masks and proof of vaccination will be required to attend.
Are You Going to the TCG Conference?

Join us for a Pittsburgh Writers Night!
Monday, June 13

Eastern Time: 6:30pm

Join the Dramatists Guild at the City Theatre Company for a night out with other theatre writers and arts industry workers in the Pittsburgh community!
Pittsburgh Co-Regional Reps, Mora Harris and TJ Young, will be joined by Emmanuel Wilson (DG Executive Director of Creative Affairs) and Jordan Stovall (Director of Outreach and Institutional Relationships) as they kick off a busy week for the Pittsburgh creative community at the beginning of the 2022 TCG Conference.

This playwright's night out is free and open to everyone. We encourage anybody who has a passion for creating and/or supporting new writing for the stage to come connect with other Pittsburgh locals and TCG Conference attendees at this event.
Contracts and Best Practices
Download a DG Best Practice, Model Contract, or Guide Today!
Dear Business Affairs
We would like you to be informed, educated, and well-equipped when you navigate the business side of theatre. There are so many questions that writers have about this industry; we want to bring those questions and answers directly to you. Dear Business Affairs features DG members' most pressing questions, answered by staff in our BA department. 
Question: How Does the Copyright Claims Board Help Dramatists?
If you have a claim under copyright law, you may want to consider filing it with the CCB rather than in federal court.

The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2020 is a recent federal law that established the Copyright Claims Board (CCB). The CCB is a voluntary arbitration procedure within the Copyright Office that offers copyright owners an alternative to bringing a claim in federal court. 

Before the establishment of the CCB, copyright owners would have to file their claims in a federal court, which is not only complicated and time consuming, but quite expensive, making relatively smaller infringements not worth litigating.

With the CCB's launch this spring, copyright owners now have a cheaper and faster alternative to federal court. They can now adjudicate claims that would otherwise be cost prohibitive. This process was designed to be easily understood by anyone, so that the use of an attorney is not necessary. The process also limits the kinds and amount of discovery, allowing for all paperwork to be filed electronically and for all CCB proceedings to be conducted remotely through video conferencing. 
The CCB is a tribunal within the Copyright Office. It is comprised of three officers, all of whom are impartial experts of copyright law, with jurisdiction limited to certain kinds of copyright claims, including:

  • Claims of infringement of a copyright; 

  • Claims seeking a declaratory judgment that specific activities do not infringe copyright (e.g., a party may seek this after they have received a cease-and-desist letter);

  • Claims of "misrepresentation" as a response to unsubstantiated takedown notices sent under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, commonly referred to as the "DMCA." 

(Under the DMCA, copyright owners can send takedown notices to online service providers if a user has posted copyrighted material without the owner's permission. However, the DMCA also provides that senders of these takedown notices may be liable for damages if they knowingly make misrepresentations; thus, the CCB can determine whether a misrepresentation was made.) 

The key differences between bringing a claim before the CCB or federal court are:

  • Voluntary process: Participation in a CCB proceeding is voluntary. If you have a claim you want to assert, you are not required to bring it to the CCB, if you would prefer to go to federal court. If a claim is brought against you, you have the option of opting out of the CCB proceeding, which would require the claimant to bring their claim to federal court;

  • Damages: A party cannot bring a claim seeking more than $30,000 in "actual damages" (money damages that are awarded based on the actual monetary loss suffered by the claimant). There is a limit of $15,000 in "statutory" damages (money damages that are awarded to compensate for infringement without the claimant needing to prove actual monetary loss, based on amounts set forth in the statute) per each infringed work, with a cap of $30,000. However, if the claimant has not registered their work within three months of publication (or before the infringement occurred), then they can only seek up to $7,500 in statutory damages per each infringed work, with a cap at $15,000 per proceeding.

  • Attorneys and Fees: The only time when the CCB can award attorney's fees is if it finds that a party has operated in bad faith or acted in a dishonest, intentionally misleading, or abusive way. An award of attorney's fees by the CCB is capped at either $5,000, if the party is represented by an attorney, and $2,500 if the party is not. That said, though the CCB process is simpler and has fewer impediments and expenses, a claimant may still need legal assistance to make or defend a claim; therefore, the CASE Act allows for law students to represent claimants before the CCB.

  • Registration: In order to bring a claim to the CCB, you must register your work with the Copyright Office. However, unlike at federal court, the registration can still be pending at the time that you file your claim with the CCB. This means that you can file an application for registration at the same time that you file a claim with the CCB, as long you provide the application's service request number when you file your claim.
For more information on the CCB, and how to bring a claim, please visit

Need Business Advice? The Business Affairs Help Desk is DG's support portal that allows us to answer your business related questions more quickly and efficiently. You can submit a query, or request a contract review, via our ticketing system. 
The DG Glossary
We are writers; what we love to do most... is write! Second to that, we love rehearsing in the room with performers and getting to see our work fully realized and produced.

However, as writers, we will inevitably have to deal with the non-creative, not-so-fun, but very essential part of our industry-- the business. We might come across some complicated looking terms, such as subsidiary rights, copyrights, or collaboration agreement.

What do these terms mean, and why do we need to know them? The DG Glossary is your handy go-to guide on important terms that every writer of the theatre should know.
First Class Production

A First Class Production is defined in the Guild's Approved Production Contract ("the APC") as follows:

"A live stage production of the Play on the speaking stage within the Territory, under Producer's own management, in a regular evening bill in a First Class theatre in a First Class manner, with a First Class cast and a First Class director."
While that definition is not particularly helpful on its face, First Class productions are generally understood by the industry to be determined by a few factors, including whether a venue’s customary usage is as a venue for commercial stage productions (not arenas, concert halls, nightclubs, non-profit theatres, etc.) with a large enough seating capacity (500 or more seats for productions in New York City). Another factor is whether the production employs professional actors, dancers, designers, directors, and choreographers, who are all working at the highest tier of their respective union contracts. In New York, Broadway productions are deemed "First Class." While it is sometimes difficult to define this term outside of the U.S., it is understood to include West End productions in the United Kingdom.
DG members who license their First Class production rights are required, as a condition of their ongoing DG membership, to only grant such rights pursuant to a Guild-reviewed APC. The APC review process ensures that writers will retain ownership of their copyright, approval over changes in their work, and approval over the hiring of all artistic personnel. It also ensures the dramatist's right to be billed, their right to be present, and their right to be paid reasonable options, advances, and royalties; none of these rights were guaranteed prior to the existence of the Guild contract. If, during its review, the DG determines that the author’s rights have not between maintained, due to revisions to the contract that were negotiated by the parties, then the contract will terminate. That said, a dramatist is always free to keep the contract in effect by resigning from the Guild. 
The Dramatists Guild established the authorial rights expressed in the APC only after many years of determined and concerted effort. In order to support the Guild’s ability to continue its work, Broadway writers have agreed to pay the Guild a small percentage of the royalties that they earn from the First Class productions produced under an APC. This portion of royalties (with the percentage defined by the Guild’s bylaw) is paid in lieu of annual member dues and is referred to as “assessments.” The writers who have received the opportunity to have a First Class production understand that their assessments do not just pay for the rights reflected in the APC and its review process, including ownership and control of their work. These assessments also give writers the opportunity to pay it forward, to help all the DG members who have yet to get their big break and the generations of dramatists still to come. 

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Need Business Advice? The Business Affairs Help Desk is DG's support portal that allows us to answer your business related questions more quickly and efficiently. You can submit a query, or request a contract review, via our ticketing system.