Before You Sign

July/August 2023

We Urge Congress to Increase Funding for the Arts

Will you take action now and urge your Congress to support $211 million for NEA funding?

Our friends at Theatre Communications Group have shared the following message, asking theatremakers to urge Congress to increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). A larger NEA budget will lead to more available funds for supporting projects by writers like you.

The U.S. House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee recently began the Congressional appropriations process which funds the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for 2024. This step in the annual appropriations cycle is extremely important because the Subcommittee’s funding recommendation generally informs what appropriation level will appear in the final spending bill. Current NEA funding is $207 million, and the President has proposed $211 million for the NEA for 2024.

Our work is bipartisan, and NEA funding has received bipartisan support in Congress for many years. Take two minutes now to contact your elected officials via the button below.

Take Action Now

Sign the Petition!

An Open Letter to Generative AI Leaders

The Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest professional advocacy organization for published writers, has written an open letter that calls on generative AI leaders to obtain consent, credit, and fairly compensate writers for the use of copyrighted materials in training AI. We encourage DG members to consider this vital issue, which could have ramifications for theatrical writers as well. You can voice your support for your fellow writers by signing the petition via the button below.

"We, the undersigned, call your attention to the inherent injustice in exploiting our works as part of your AI systems without our consent, credit, or compensation. 

Generative AI technologies built on large language models owe their existence to our writings. These technologies mimic and regurgitate our language, stories, style, and ideas. Millions of copyrighted books, articles, essays, and poetry provide the “food” for AI systems, endless meals for which there has been no bill. You’re spending billions of dollars to develop AI technology. It is only fair that you compensate us for using our writings, without which AI would be banal and extremely limited...

We ask you, the leaders of AI, to mitigate the damage to our profession by taking the following steps: 

1. Obtain permission for use of our copyrighted material in your generative AI programs.

2. Compensate writers fairly for the past and ongoing use of our works in your generative AI programs.

3. Compensate writers fairly for the use of our works in AI output, whether or not the outputs are infringing under current law.

Sign the Petition

Adventures (Mostly Excellent) in the Land of Copyright Registration

by Douglas Post

The scripts were piling up. There were roughly a dozen that I had written for over the past decade. Some were the result of commissions, and some had been done on spec. Some were full-length plays, some were plays with songs, and still others were only ten minutes in length. And all of them needed the legal protection that a text for the stage can only be granted by having a valid copyright registration.

I was, of course, aware that as soon as a play or a musical exists in some tangible form, it is considered to be protected under copyright law. And I had never believed the folk tale that simply sending myself a copy of my script through the mail in a sealed envelope would somehow stand up in court. So, in the past I had always registered my work with the U.S. Copyright Office, but I knew the process had changed over the years and, while I would like to think that I have a pretty strong principle regarding staying the course, I had somehow allowed the Protestant Sloth Ethic to creep into this particular aspect of my life.

Read The Full Article
Career Training

How to Write a One-Act Play for the Educational Market: A Conversation with Broadway Licensing

Learn how to write for the growing educational theatre market!

In this video with Broadway Licensing’s Kent Nicholson (Vice President of Artistic Services and Acquisitions) and Zach Dulli (Director of Education), you'll discover the types of one-act plays that are in demand in the educational market as well as how the submission process works for getting your play or musical published.

The Dramatists Guild offered this complimentary training to allow members to learn more about the various writing tools and methods available to them, and whether or not those tools may be a good fit for their writing process. This video does not serve as an endorsement of one licensing group over another.

ASL interpretation was provided at this webinar.


DG Contract Bootcamps: The Model Licensing Agreement

What contract should you use when a producer wants to license your show? Find out how to license your work with the Guild's Model Licensing Agreement in this webinar recording from our FREE, online contract bootcamp!

In this video, Jessica Lit (DG's Director of Business Affairs) breaks down the Guild's Model Licensing Agreement. Discover how and when to use the contract, what each provision means, and why each provision is important. You'll also learn a few tips and tricks for how to most effectively present and negotiate this contract.


DG Contract Bootcamps: The Model Commission Agreement

What contract should you use when a producer wants to license your show?

Learn all about the Guild's Model Commission Agreement in this webinar recording from our FREE, online contract bootcamp!

In this video, Jessica Lit (DG's Director of Business Affairs) breaks down the Guild's Model Commission Agreement. Discover how and when to use the contract, what each provision means, and why each provision is important. You'll also learn a few tips and tricks for how to most effectively present and negotiate this contract.


How to Adapt Existing Materials for the Stage

How do you adapt your favorite story or film for the stage? What do you need to know about underlying rights and copyright in order to make sure that your work can be produced?

Watch this career training video (led by DG staff and attorneys) to discover what you need to know about underlying rights, so that you can successfully adapt pre-existing material for the stage. Learn what falls under the category of an adaptation, how to find out if work is in the public domain, how billing and compensation work for adaptations, and more!


Register for Fall 2023 Online Writing, Career, or Business Classes

Dramatists Guild Professional Development

It’s almost back to school time! Our online fall semester courses start Monday, September 11.

This fall, the Dramatists Guild is offering eleven continuing education classes for playwrights, composers, lyricists, librettists, theatre educators, and theatremakers. Whether you're trying to tackle that elusive first draft, looking to experiment with play structure, or seeking new ways to maximize your career potential, you'll find an online course that helps you expand your talents and hone your craft.

For Writers Crafting Memorable Characters:

Building Complex Characters: Revealing Psychology Through Action

For Writers Exploring Language in Their Plays:

Challenges of Dialogue

For Musical Theatre Wordsmiths:

Word Crazy: The Art of Creating Lyrics

For Writers Experimenting with Play Structure:

Structure is Not a Dirty Word

For Writers Who Collaborate with Designers:

Telling Story Through Design

For Writers Starting a New Play:

Core Skills: Generating a First Draft

For Writers Who Want to Take Their Career to the Next Level:

Empower Your Career

For Playwrights Who Want to Write for TV:

Writing a TV Pilot

For Theatremakers Who Want to Discover New Plays:

Architecture of Plays: The Big Picture

For Playwrights Who Work With Small Casts:

Write Your Small Cast Play

For Playwrights Who Want to Write Musicals:

The Musical Theatre Primer

Learn More Register

DG Contract Bootcamps - The Model Collaboration Agreement 

Thursday, August 31

ADT: 4pm

EDT/AST: 3pm

CDT: 2pm

MDT: 1pm

PDT/MST: 12pm

AKDT: 11am

HST: 9am


Do you write with a writing partner? 

Collaboration is a wonderful but challenging part of the creative process. Discover how to protect your work with the Guild's Model Collaboration Agreement at our FREE, online contract bootcamp! 

The Guild is proud to offer an array of model contracts that serve members like you in varying aspects of your career, from collaboration agreements to commission agreements to production agreements for nearly every level of theatre. However, we also recognize that as much as we strive to make these model contracts as digestible for the non-lawyer as possible, there are always questions about how best to use them and what the terms mean.

For these reasons, we launched a monthly contracts bootcamp to provide you with an opportunity to get real-time guidance on each of our model contracts so you can start using them to the best of your benefit. Sign up to join DG's Director of Business Affairs, Jessica Lit, for an intimate 1.5-hour long session that will break down one of the Guild's Model Contracts. In these sessions, Jessica will explain how and when to use the contract, clarify what each provision means and why they are important, as well as provide a few tips and tricks for how to most effectively present and negotiate the contract. Next up is our Model Collaboration Agreement! 

This workshop will focus on the Collaboration Agreement for musicals, but both playwrights and musical theatre writers are welcome to attend.

Questions? Please contact us at [email protected].

Self-Care If Your Industry Work is on Pause

Thursday, August 24

1 pm ET/12 pm CT/10 am PT


Are you experiencing stress due to a pause in your industry work?

Join us for this 75-minute minute workshop to gain tools to help you incorporate self-care into your daily life. We will discuss how stress manifests in the body, what we can do to slow the body down and how to create self-care goals that feel manageable and achievable, especially during the uncertainty that a pause in work can bring.

Please note that this is not a psychotherapy group and does not provide mental health treatment. If you are in need of mental health support, please reach out to the Entertainment Community Fund:

This workshop is available to anyone living in the United States, Puerto Rico and US territories.

Save The Date!

The Dramatists Guild Summer Conference Schedule

This summer, the Dramatists Guild participated in several different industry conferences, festivals, and other outreach events across the country.

Are you planning to attend any of the following events? If so, please stop by and say hello! The Dramatists Guild will have a table. Please visit and say hi!

We look forward to seeing you there.

EdTA Theatre Education Conference in St Pete Beach, FL

September 28-30, 2023

Read Full Schedule

Sheldon Harnick

Composer and Lyricist | 1924 - 2023

Theatrical legend Sheldon Harnick was best known for his collaborations with composer Jerry Bock on musicals including Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello!, and She Loves Me.

The Pulitzer Prize- winning composer/lyricist's career began in the 1950s with songs in revues (such as "The Boston Beguine" and "The Merry Little Minuet"). With Jerry Bock he created a number of memorable musicals, including Fiorello! (Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize), Tenderloin, She Loves Me (Grammy Award), Fiddler on the Roof (Tony Award), The Apple Tree, and The Rothchilds.

He passed away on June 23, 2023 at the age of 99 and was a member of The Dramatists Guild for 71 years.

Read “Ask Me Where I’m Going” A Conversation with Mr. Harnick

Tom Jones

Lyricist and Librettist | 1928 - 2023

Tom is perhaps best remembered for writing the book and lyrics to the world's longest running musical The Fantasticks, which opened in 1960 at the Sullivan Street theatre and played off-Broadway for 42 years. In addition to co-writing the show with composer Harvey Schmidt, he also performed in the musical as the Old Actor, under the name Tom Bruce. Other credits include the Broadway musicals I Do! I Do!, Celebration, and 110 in the Shade, all written with his Fantasticks collaborator, composer Schmidt.

He received Tony nominations for his work on I Do! I Do! and 110 in the Shade, the latter of which was revived in a 2007 Broadway production starring Audra McDonald. A 1998 inductee into the American Theatre Hall of Fame, Tom was also the recipient of an Obie Award, an ASCAP Richard Rodgers Award, and a special Tony Award for The Fantasticks

He passed away on August 11, 2023 at the age of 95 and was a member of The Dramatists Guild for 62 years.

Read "Writers and Their Work: The Fantastick Jones & Schmidt"

Read The Translations and Adaptations Issue!

The Translations and Adaptations issue of The Dramatist includes a round-up on adaptations featuring Lee Cataluna, Kate Hamill, Mindi Dickstein, Tim J. Lord, Matthew Spangler, and Jeffrey Hatcher; answers to eight common questions about adaptations from our Business Affairs team; and a roundtable on translations with Migdalia Cruz, Jeremy Tiang, and Jessica Lit, moderated by Caridad Svich. Also in this issue, Michele Lowe reflects on Fidler Afn Dakh, Lee Edward Colston II answers “Ten Questions,” and Chisa Hutchinson explains “Why I Joined the Guild.”

Read The Translations and Adaptions Issue

Bad Words and Good Theatre

by Joseph Bardin

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen: Dramatist’s Bill of Rights

by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen

Lee Edward Colston II: Ten Questions

by Lee Edward Colston II

8 Questions About Adaptations

by Jessica LitLeesa Fenderson, and Ralph Sevush

On Adaptations

by Lee D.A. CatalunaKate Hamill, Mindi DicksteinTim J. Lord, Matthew Spangler, and Jeffrey Hatcher

Alan Menken: On Adaptations

by Alan Menken

On Translations

by Migdalia CruzJeremy TiangJessica Lit, and Caridad Svich

Miracle of Miracles

by Michele Lowe

The Legacy of William S. Yellow Robe, Jr.

by Diane FraherBob Jaffe, Vickie M RamirezMadeline Sayet, Deborah Murad, ESQ., and Margo Lukens

Adventures (Mostly Excellent) in the Land of Copyright Registration

by Douglas Post

Chisa Hutchinson: Why I Joined the Guild

by Chisa Hutchinson

The Art and Activism Issue is out!

The Art and Activism Issue of The Dramatist magazine is now available to read online! 

The Art and Activism issue of

The Dramatist includes a roundtable with Lynn Nottage, Erika Dickerson-Despenza, and Lisa Kron on theatre, activism, and the influence of playwright Lorraine Hansberry on their work, a roundup from Carolyn Gage, Pearl Cleage, Robert Schenkkan, and Keelay Gipson about the intersection of activism and art, and “A Secular Prayer for the Artist’s Radical Rest” from ayla xuan chi sullivan.

The issue is currently shipping to members and subscribers. It is also available for purchase at the Drama Book Shop in New York City, Skylight Books in Los Angeles, East End Books Ptown in Provincetown, and Samuel French Bookstore at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

Read It Here
Opportunity Digest

DGF's Strike Relief 


In light of the ongoing WGA and SAG/AFTRA strikes, the Dramatists Guild Foundation wants to let you know they're here to help. DGF's Strike Relief Grant offers up to $10,000 in financial support for writers who are impacted by the strike.

Learn More

54 Below Joins Playwrights


#DGYouKnow that DG membership grants you complimentary tickets to certain performances and theatres all across the country through the Playwrights Welcome program? We’d like to welcome the newest theatre to join the program: 54 Below!


Following our recent relaunch of the program with Concord Theatricals earlier in the year, we’ve seen new theatres and organizations all across the country join Playwrights Welcome and make a commitment to make theatre accessible to the writers and creators who need it most to help hone their craft. The concept is simple: if there are unsold seats to performances, the theatre will offer those seats to theatre writers at no cost.


Curious how to access your free theatre tickets? Click Here to see a full list of theatres and organizations participating, along with their most recent policy on how they offer them.


NOTE: It is always best practice to call ahead and double-check with the participating theatre’s box office on their most up to date Playwrights Welcome policy, although we do our best to keep policies up to date. We ask all of our members and writers to be respectful and mindful of theatre staff/operations when doing so. If you run into any issues at all, email [email protected] and we’ll sort it out with you.


Curious about other ways your membership might get you discounted tickets to shows? Click here for all other available ticket offers available to DG members.

Update on DG Member Cards: We are working to fabricate and ship new member cards to active DG Members. You may use your old DG Member Card (the black version only) but you can also use our new DG Virtual Membership Card. You must sign into your account to pull up the card. You can find the link to your DG Virtual Membership Card in the Account Menu or use the link below.

View Your Virtual Member Card

Explore Playwrights Welcome

Eugene O'Neill Theater Center Seeks Artistic Director, National Playwright's Conference


The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center (the O’Neill) is the country’s preeminent organization dedicated to the development of new works and new voices for the stage. From its campus in Waterford, Connecticut, the O’Neill has been home to more than 1,000 new works for the stage and thousands more emerging artists.

Position Summary

The Artistic Director of the National Playwrights Conference (NPC) reports to the O’Neill’s Executive Director and leads and represents the NPC while in residence at the O’Neill’s campus in Waterford, CT, during the five weeks of the conference each summer and throughout the rest of the year. They will build upon NPC’s leadership in the field of new play development. The Artistic Director of the NPC will be responsible for setting short, medium, and long-term goals that align with the Executive Director’s and board’s vision for the O’Neill as a whole and must be available for quarterly board meetings (at least two of four each year).

It is expected that the Artistic Director of the NPC will work collaboratively with their fellow Artistic Directors and programs, of which the NPC overlaps directly with the National Music Theater Conference, the National Theater Institute, and the National Critics Institute, to find synergies and best use of shared spaces.

Learn More and Apply

The New Harmony Project Now Accepting Applications For 2024 Spring Conference

Applications Open Through October 2, 2023

The 37th Annual Spring Conference Will Take Place In May 2024 Aa The New Harmony Project Continues To Nurture Writers In The Development of Scripts And New Works That Interrogate The Complexity of Hope. 


The New Harmony Project announced today that it is now accepting applications for the 37th annual conference to be held May 22-June 2, 2024. For more than three decades, The New Harmony Project has gathered world-class writers and artists along the banks of the Wabash River in Southern Indiana for an intensive, creative residency and retreat. Throughout that time, Pulitzer Prize, Tony, Emmy, and Academy Award-winning artists have worked alongside early and mid-career writers, students, and the local community to create a one-of-a-kind experience. With a unique focus on people over product, The New Harmony Project clears space and provides a supportive environment for each writer and artist to build their own experience.


Executive Artistic Director Jenni Werner said, “I’m delighted to build on the legacy of this incredible artist-centered residency, and to create space for a community of writers who challenge our notions of what hope means. We know that great writing can change the world, and we are excited to see which world-changers will join us this year.”

Learn More and Apply

Sword & Pen Playwriting Competition

We are thrilled to announce that the 2023/2024 Joining Sword & Pen Competition is now accepting submissions.  


This is the 10th round of our flagship contest! The competition is open to playwrights of marginalized genders only (this includes cis women, trans women, trans men, non-binary people, genderfluid folks, etc.) We use a blind submission process where the anonymous winner is decided by vote of the BWBTC ensemble who read all qualifying submissions.  


Playwrights are to write Totally New scripts based on the specific image on our website. The moment depicted in the image must occur at some point in the play.  


The winning script will be taken through our Fighting Words development program, and then receive a full production with Babes With Blades Theatre Company.


The playwright will also receive the Margaret W. Martin Award, which carries a $1,000 cash prize sponsored by BWBTC's longtime benefactor David Woolley.

Please visit our website for all rules and requirements regarding the Joining Sword & Pen competition. Please make sure to follow these rules when submitting to avoid being disqualified. This year’s image and competition rules may be found at:


We cannot wait to read all your submissions!


Please Note: The images for the competition can be found on our website. Please do not select your own prompts. Please make sure to review these rules before submitting so you’re not disqualified.  

Learn More and Apply

Write Brothers:

Hot Summer Sale on Software for Writers

Movie Magic Screenwriter - $149.95 ($249.95) The script writing choice of Hollywood professionals, novelists, playwrights, and graphic novelists.  Academic version on sale for $49!

Dramatica Pro for Windows - $119.95 ($149.95) The ultimate creative writing partner for story development.  Academic version on sale for $49!

Outline 4D - $54.95 ($99.95) The mega-outliner with element tracking and a timeline view.

Shop now online at to take advantage of these SUMMER DEALS!

Learn More

Aug 31 - Yale Drama Series/David C. Horn Prize

Aug 31 - Arts Committee of The Religious Society of Friends (The Quakers) NYC

Aug 31 - Clive Awards

Aug 31 - Woodward/Newman Drama Award

Sept 1 - Sarah Siddons Society Professional Development Grant

Sept 1 - American-Scandinavian Foundation Translation Awards

Sept 4 - The Fire This Time Festival New Works Lab Cycle 6

Sept 5 - Relentless Award 10-Minute Plays

Sept 10 - MacDowell

Sept 12 - Cuban Migrant Artists Resilience Fellowship

Sept 15 - SOOP to NUTS Short Play Festival

Sept 15 - Native Voices Annual Short Play Festival

Sept 15 - International Human Rights Art Festival (IHRAF)

Submission Calendar

Mark Masi - librettist/ playwright seeking arranger

"Looking to hire a very inventive arranger for a small scale, five character piece. Structurally, sort of Cinderella, but tone is more Little Shop... Thinking 3 to 5 piece band..."

Erick Fix- writer seeking composer/ lyricist

"SHAKESPEAREAN SPACE MUSICAL: Award winning filmmaker and co-founder of Brooklyn-based production company Robotic Raptor looking for collaborators for a modern musical comedy based on A Midsummer Night's Dream..."

Martin Cohen - playwright seeking dramaturg

"In this historical drama, My Clara, the Baum family, living in America in early 1900, is shattered by poverty and religious adjustment from Old World traditions and culture. The intention of the playwright is to evoke an accurate and human portrayal of an Orthodox Jewish family making a transition to their new way of life in a new country..."

David Secter - librettist/ lyricist seeking composer

"Aloha - I live in Kona on the big island of Hawaii and have completed a draft of Rule of Fire, a new musical about old Hawaii, which dramatizes the encounter between an aging Captain Cook and young Kamehameha the Great, and celebrates the islands' polyamory culture...I seek a well-versed composer with time and talent to commit..."

See All Postings

Download a DG Best Practice, Model Contract, or Guide Today!

Because the Guild tracks national and worldwide trends, we are able to provide certain model contracts that reflect up-to-date industry standards.

We encourage our members to use these models to educate themselves and to use them as guides when entering into productions or collaborations.

Before Writing Has Begun

Working With Others

Collaboration Agreement for Musicals

Collaboration Agreement for Plays

Find a Collaborator


Form of Underlying Rights for Musicals

Form of Underlying Rights for Plays

Writing Something New

Form of Commission Agreement for Plays and Musicals

Devised Theatre

Collaborations Agreement Between Writers and Non-Writers

Collaboration Agreement Solely Between Writers


DG Guide for Dramatists: The Art of Negotiating Theatre Contracts

Submissions Tools

Best Practices

Best Practices for Contests and Festivals

Production Agreements

Billing Credit

Proper Billing Credit for Opera Writers

Proper Billing Credit for Theatre Writers

Working With Directors

Considerations for Director Agreements

Professional Theatre Contracts

Approved Production Contract for Broadway Musicals

Approved Production Contract for Broadway Plays

Premiere Production - National 

Premiere Production Contract - NY/LA

Amateur Theatre Contracts

Form of Licensing Agreement

Live Stream/Digital Theatre

Live Stream Addendum

Digital Rights Agreement

Devised Theatre

Devised Theatre Resource Manual

Preliminary Agreement to Participate

Devised Theatre Production Agreement


Anti-Piracy Agreements for Auditions

Supplemental to All Production Contracts

DG Inclusion Rider

Production Process


Anti-Piracy Agreements for Rehearsal



Translator Agreement

Download a Model Contract
Career Advice
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: What should I do before signing a contract?

Guild members have the advantage of being able to send in contracts for review by the Business Affairs Department at the Guild. Whether you avail yourself of your Guild membership benefits or go it alone, there is no need to sign anything blindly. To wit, for as many unconscionable contracts that we review in Business Affairs, what truly shocks our conscience is how many authors sign documents without any due attention, both to the other party’s reputation and to the full implications of the commitments therein. 

The Minimum 7 Tasks Before Signing Anything

1 - Research the other party (e.g., producer, publisher, agent) using Internet search engines, recommendations provided to you, and information solicited by you from your own network.

2 - Read the contract, making notes, and put it down for at least twenty-four (24) hours. 

3 - Re-read the contract, making more notes. 

4 - Review the Guild’s library of past Business Affairs articles or the website FAQ for information related to any notes or questions arising from your reading of the contract. 

5 - Forward the contract and/or remaining questions to the Guild’s Business Affairs office ([email protected]). 

6 - Share any and all information with your lawyer or agent and receive their advice. 

7 - Draft a counteroffer comprising your questions and concerns in a diplomatic fashion and send it to the other party. 

Read Full Article
Need Business Advice? The BA Career 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. 
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.



There are profound differences between an “employee” and an “independent contractor”, yet the laws governing the definitions are not consistent. You may be treated as an employee for tax purposes but deemed an independent contractor under the National Labor Relations Act that defines your status under labor law. Under copyright law, you may be considered an author, or the author may be deemed to be the company that hired you. You may have a right to unionize under labor law or be in violation of anti-trust laws. Generally speaking, however, an “employee” is a person who works under the supervision or control of an employer and an “independent contractor” is a person or a business that performs services for another person or business without such supervision or control. 


Some of the key distinctions between an employee and an independent contractor are:

  • Independent Contractors are self-employed. They are typically contracted by a company for a specific project, or on a temporary basis, set their own hours/schedule, and can work for multiple individuals or companies at the same time;

  • Employees work at the direction of their employer. They are hired by the company to perform a specific function  and the company directs and controls what work is done and how it is accomplished. They typically also have a continuous relationship with the employer (i.e., no set end date, unless it is a seasonal or temporary employee) and the number of hours and days they work are dictated by the employer;

  • Employees are often provided with training to perform the role they are hired for, whereas independent contractors are contracted for their expertise for a particular project;

  • Independent contractors are “1099 workers” responsible for paying their own income tax, unemployment insurance, and social security taxes. Employees are “W-2 workers” who have such withholdings deducted from their paychecks by their employers;

  • Employees are often afforded benefits by their employers such as health insurance, retirement plans/pensions, and paid time off,  which benefits are not necessarily provided to independent contractors;

  • Employees may have greater protection than independent contactors under certain state and federal laws, including eligibility for Worker’s Compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, and protections under equal protection laws;

  • Copyrighted work created by employees within the scope of their employment is deemed a “work for hire” and thus owned by their employer.  In contrast, an independent contractor often retains the copyright in any work they create on behalf of the company with whom they have contracted (for more information on what classifies as a work for hire under copyright law, please see our DG Glossary definition of “Work For Hire” here); and

  • Most importantly for dramatists, Employees are allowed to unionize and collectively bargain the terms of their employment, whereas independent contractors are businesses and/or property owners that are prohibited from unionizing and collectively bargaining under federal labor, tax, and anti-trust laws (for more information on collective bargaining, please see our DG Glossary definition of “Collective Bargaining” here).


One of the most common methods used by states to determine whether a worker classifies as an employee or an independent contractor is what is known as the ABC Test. First articulated in 2018 by the California Supreme Court in the case Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, variations of this test have been adopted in many other states, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Delaware and Illinois. A version of the ABC Test has also been included in the proposed PRO Act, which is the legislation currently being considered by Congress to allow independent contractors to act collectively. For more information about the PRO Act, please click here


Under the ABC test, a worker can only be classified as an independent contractor if they meet three specific criteria:

  1. The worker must be free from control or direction by the company in both contractual terms and in the actual course of action between the parties. Meaning, one cannot rely solely on a contract stating that the worker is free from direction and control. If in the actual course of doing business the worker is subject to the direction and control of the employer, then they are not an independent contractor;
  2. The worker must perform work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business. This means that a worker cannot perform work which the company typically does for its customers. As an example, a restaurant cannot hire a server as an independent contractor because a server would be performing work that the restaurant is primarily engaged for - serving food to its customers; and
  3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed. In other words, the worker must have their own business in which they are performing the same services that they are performing for the company for multiple customers 

Despite the fact that dramatists will often fail to meet at least the second prong of this test (and sometimes the first prong, too), they are viewed by the law (as originally determined by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Ring v. Spina) as property owners who license the use of their property, rather than employees entitled to collectively bargain for the conditions of their labor.  In contrast, writers for film and television are deemed employees by the National Labor Relations Board, so what they write is within the scope of their employment and is owned by the studios that employ them. This distinction is why the Writers Guild of America is able to collectively bargain and strike and why The Dramatists Guild of America can do neither.