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March 12, 2009

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Ed

Are those two words the full extent of the clause? It seems unenforcably vague- as people note on the TO:C blog, it doesn't really explore T & L's responsibilities as far as news organizations and/or bloggers that decide to review the show of their own volition. I think it's at least a reasonable interpretation that T&L is required to not invite the press and not comp press personnel or prepare media packets at the door for them, but how far beyond that are they expected to take things?
Questions I have:

-Do they have to put a notice at the door or in the program officially discouraging reviewers?
-If someone shows up and is clearly taking notes during the performance, is T&L required to confront them the same way they'd have to if someone was video recording the show?
-Does Samuel French have the right to send them a cease-and-desist midrun if some news organization or blogger decides to buy a ticket and review the show anyway? If Samuel French does have that right, would they actually exercise it? If they did it would be the height of unreasonable douchebaggery, but unreasonable douchebaggery is something for which dramatic publishers are often known when it comes to rights.

But above all- T&L, how silly can you be? Oldest rule in the book: never sign ANY contract without reading and understanding all of it. Or, if you're rich, without your *attorney* reading and understanding all of it. That clause is so onerous I'd seriously reconsider producing a show that had that as a requirement in its rights agreement.

Dianna

Oh c'mon Ed - While it's never a SMART thing, I'd love to meet the small not for profit group that actually PORES over the contract from the Rights Holder. I have admittedly "skimmed" in the past, mostly looking at the finer points (cost per performance, etc..)
When they send the contract OUT, it (usually) means you've secured the rights, you simply need to sign on the dotted line and send back. Which I'm sure most do - who would think after "securing" the rights there would ever be a clause such as this???? I have never even HEARD of a clause such as this.

If they can't get reviewers to come, they should be allowed to not even PAY for rights. Or get a DRASTIC reduction in them. Because regardless of what you personally feel about reviews and reviewers, they do drive a decent portion of business toward a theatre, and how are you expected to pay that rights bill if you can't get anyone to review it for the public???

Kerry Reid

Kinda answers the question I had about "how did they get the area premiere for that?" They didn't, as far as French is concerned.

Ed

Dianna- I agree that many companies don't examine their rights agreements as closely as they should. This situation is a prime example of what can happen if you don't! And while going over a rights agreement with a fine tooth comb is a chore, in the grand scheme of things it's a very minor one. A typical new storefront theatre has to secure the rights to approx. two to three shows per season. That's only two to three rights contracts to read carefully- and these contracts aren't 50 page tomes, so to understand the ins and outs of one completely would only take twenty minutes (half an hour if you're REALLY unused to legalese). I feel like the 'no reviews' clause can't possibly just be two words stuck in the middle of an enormous paragraph- if one saw the actual contract, the 'no reviews' item would probably have to be its own separate clause, and therefore much easier to spot. Is there anyone reading with the ability to confirm/deny on this?

I dunno, maybe I'm just too detail oriented- my dad was an attorney, I've had to draft my own rights agreements for stage adaptations of novels that I've wanted to do, and since I work on marketing and PR for my company I'm used to reading the rights agreements closely to see what rules we're supposed to follow as far as billing for the author and acknowledgements in the program. But if this was a genuine surprise to the company this week, in my opinion their lit manager or whoever got the rights deserves a swift boot in the rear for not catching this. I agree, however, that from context it looks like Samuel French put that clause in the contract but never discussed it specifically while communicating directly with the company, and that's pretty underhanded.

Esther

I just think it's outrageous. Like some of the comments at TOC said, the contract is between Samuel French and the theater. There's nothing to prevent someone from buying a ticket and writing a review. Like Kris noted, this is a tiny theater and there's only 12 performances. But I guess this is a cautionary tale about having a lawyer look these agreements over. I wonder if there's a lawyer with an interest in the arts who would be willing to do this pro bono for small theater companies? I mean, how long would it take to read the contract? If not, someone must know someone who's a lawyer! I just can't believe Samuel French could get away with this!

Bilal

Esther - This is something I would note for small theaters to think about when they attempt to recruit a board: it's not a good idea just to be looking for people who can get you money. There are other talents that people have that can be offered...such as pro bono legal expertise.

Kerry Reid

I don't know if she paid for a ticket or not, but there is a review from Nina in the Tribune today. So that clause didn't really stick, apparently.

Bilal

Did T&L invite Nina? Did they know she was coming? Did they know she was here after she left?

I'm sure Sam French will want to know the answers to these questions, but plausible deniability is a wondeful thing.

Nina Metz

I bought a ticket, simple as that.

Bilal

Thereby demonstrating the folly of such a clause in the first place. Nicely done, Ms. Metz.

wayoffloop

Exactly. Let's show them Frenchies how we get it done in Chicago.

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  • Kris Vire
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