Sunday, September 6, 2020

Streaming Licenses

Last month, I was contacted by Brooklyn Publishers, which represents my play The New Mrs. Jones about a producing organization that wanted to stream a performance of the play on a private YouTube channel. The publisher asked me if this would be acceptable.

My answer: Yes, please! In the current environment, I'm thankful for anyone who wants to bring theater to audiences, even if it's in a mediated form that isn't my ideal of live performance. The publisher is being cautious, as well. Audiences will need a link with a password in order to view the video. The video will also only be available for viewing for 14 days.

Right now, everything is being done on an ad hoc basis, because most people didn't think to write these things into contracts drafted more than a decade ago. Brooklyn Publishers recently announced their own practices for streaming, which seem like a reasonable set of principles. Here's what they are:

License Rights: To be eligible for a streaming rights, the producing organization must still purchase cast scripts and pay performance royalties. The limited streaming rights will be an additional fee. (Seems reasonable to me.)

Privacy: Brooklyn is only allowing streaming with approved companies with digital rights management capabilities. This is to ensure proper security. (YouTube has apparently made the cut.)

Limited Time Frame: Brooklyn is limiting the time over which a company can stream their production. (I've pushed for limited time frames for other things, such as residual payments to commissioning theaters.)

Limited Number of Streams: The customer will pay for a specific amount of streams/views. (We'll see how this ultimately works, but it seems reasonable, as there are only so many people you can pack into an auditorium, and potentially much larger audiences are available on the Internet.)

Will these general concepts ultimately hold sway? I think they will. The industry is being smart about this, and while I am still eager to get back to live performances, right now streaming is the only option in many parts of the country... and the world.