This spring, the student-run, multimedia organization of and for art enthusiasts at the University of Santo Tomas(MEDIARTRIX-UST), will be performing their annual musical. In the past, this group has performed such shows as Spring Awakening and Legally Blonde. However this year they decided on newer work. This spring they are performing the musical, Bombshell.
And in case you were wondering, yes, that is the fictitious musical from the TV-show Smash.
Their production would be a world premiere of sorts because the show is still in development.
Following a successful one-night-only concert production, Universal Stage Productions have tasked producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to helm the development for a possible Broadway run.
While the last update on the project was last summer and nothing concrete has been announced lately, it's unlikely that Universal and the producing team would have granted rights to Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's work to be performed at a University in the Philippines.
Which means, the school is performing this material without permission or obtaining rights.
The show at UST has already held auditions and is in the process of rehearsals. Here are the audition materials which confirm they are indeed doing the material from Smash with the requested preparation of "Don't Forget Me" :
As mentioned earlier, rehearsals are underway as well. Here is a tweet from their account documenting the start of the rehearsal period:
No word on when the production of Bombshell is set to premiere but if it follows suit with their previous productions, it will likely be the first week of May. Which calls into question another issue entirely.
As mentioned above, in the past two years MEDIARTRIX - UST have performed both Legally Blonde and Spring Awakening. If there were any mystery about whether or not they obtained rights to do these shows, their posters give it away.
Here are the two posters:
The Spring Awakening poster doesn't include credit to AnnMarie Milazzo or Simon Hale which is required on all marketing materials per MTI's rights agreements. Legally Blonde poster doesn't contain any credits which would be required on any rights agreement. Also nowhere on either poster does it include the required text that the production is being "presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI."
Here is a video of curtain call of Spring Awakening, which implies they used canned music for the performance as well. Again, why people put these things on Youtube is beyond me.
While the use of "adaptation" implies that the entire show wasn't performed as written, it does show that MEDIARTRIX - UST likely edited their own version of the show for their performance which would qualify as copyright infringement. Also the fact that they charged tickets is another problem as well. MEDIARTRIX - UST charged 150 Philippine pesos($2.88) for Spring Awakening and 200($3.84) for Legally Blonde. While that sounds like a small amount of money, it's still revenue earned for a performance of material they didn't obtain licensing for.
Over the past week, we've published two stories about schools overseas performing theatrical properties without obtaining permissions. It's becoming clear that this practice is widespread and needs to cease because it could put a lot of things in jeopardy for these various institutions. For instance, judging from the severity of these situations, if UST ever wanted to start a theatre program, they could be denied rights permissions from every publisher. Good luck to any theatre program out there without permission to perform published works. It could also impact these schools' accreditations as well.
As this has been explained in previous articles, the Philipines is a member of the WTO which means they do have to obey U.S. Copyright law. While UST is a private university, they are a Catholic one which can lead to some other issues if any of their funding comes from the Archdiocese of Manila.
But once again, this shows a lack of knowledgeable adults in the room. Faculty advisors, teachers, professors, need to understand right and wrong when it comes to copyright permissions. Students are passionate about theatre and want to perform it as much as possible but they also need to be taught certain lessons like these. In college, I had to go through the same process when my student group wanted to perform You're a Good Man Charlie Brown! and it took the faculty advisor to remind us to pay for licensing rights first.
So my advice to MEDIARTRIX - UST and any other school group out there doing the same, shut it down now. Better to do that first during show selection then find out later during rehearsals that you can't perform the show at all.
I have reached out to MEDIARTRIX - UST, Universal Stage Productions and MTI for confirmation and clarification and updated this piece with any comments.
UPDATE 3/13 - 7:27 am - I was sent the following letter from MEDIARTRIX - UST:
A couple of things to unpack here. The first is that we're not going to take down the article. I stand by this reporting and taking it down only serves as giving MEDIARTRIX-UST a free pass for their errors.
Secondly, based on legal opinions from sources, they're not operating under the Fair Use Doctrine either. United States copyright code allows for limited exceptions to copyright protection in unaffiliated works, referred to as “fair use.” However, it doesn't allow for full or even abridged reproductions of theatrical property presented in this way.
The law states:
- the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
- the nature of the copyrighted work;
- the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;
- the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.
This may apply to “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”
While the law recognizes an exception to copyright protection on works used in an educational environment, the way MEDIARTRIX - UST has been operating under it is a stretch. Also the fact that they edited the properties as adaptations would revoke the "fair use" since only copyright holders would have permission to "create derivative works based off of the original property".
If what MEDIARTRIX - UST is doing was within the boundaries of "Fair Use", then every school in the country would be doing the same, and they aren't.
The third problem here is that MEDIARTRIX - UST admits here that they cast and started rehearsals for a production that they did not yet have permission to do so. That by itself is incredibly irresponsible and completely unfair to the students that auditioned for a show that they might not get a chance to perform. And using the excuse of producing an unauthorized show for art's sake is just a ludicrous statement.
UPDATE: 3/14/18 - 8:45 AM - I was sent the following email from a former member of MEDIARTRIX - UST:
I was once a member of the organization... based from what I know, they do not ask for the rights and permission of obtaining soundtrack/material from the "adaptations" they use. My 1st and last "adaptation" to be in was Rent, and the process of nominating musicals for big production is:
Members would find materials of their chosen production/s (libretto, soundtrack, backings), and the student executives of the organization would have a voting which production to choose.
It has also been discovered that the group has also "adapted" musicals such as Bonnie & Clyde and Mamma Mia! as well. All presumably without permission from the copyright holders. Here are the posters for the two musicals.
Update: According to emails from MTI, their production of Legally Blonde was licensed. Although it is not clear right now if there adapted version would be considered a violation of that license.