Community theater group sued for performing license fees

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Global theatrical licensor Musical Theater International has filed a federal complaint alleging that an Ashburn-based community theater company performed at least 16 Broadway musicals without paying the required license fees.

According to MTI, Theaterpalooza Community Theater Productions Inc., as of 2015, refused to pay fees and equipment rental fees, which typically range from $ 1,500 to $ 2,500, depending on the number of performances, the number of seats per performance and the amount of paid admission fees billed. As performance continued, the company says it sent out additional notices of violation in 2016 and, more recently, in May, with no response.

MTI claimed that Theaterpalooza had promoted plans for summer performances of more MTI licensed shows. “While fully aware that MTI believes these unlicensed and unauthorized productions make it a willful copyright infringer, Theaterpalooza has persisted in advertising future unauthorized uses for the summer of 2018, promoting camps culminating with productions of Annie, Mamma Mia! and Hairspray, ”the company said.

Theaterpalooza owner Teri Walker said she was surprised by MTI’s announcement, which was made nationwide in entertainment industry media. Walker said they are in talks with the company and recently worked out a payment plan to cover the cost of the return. “We fixed that,” Walker said.

She also said that only six productions, not 16, were involved. Others were original works or in the public domain, or did not make it to the performance stage.

Walker said the MTI ad was a “punch” to the community theater group.

“We are a really good company. We’re doing good things for kids, ”Walker said. “I don’t want the good things we do for children to be overlooked because of this.”

MTI works with theater composers, lyricists, and book authors to provide official scripts and musical material to more than 70,000 theater organizations in the United States and more than 60 other countries.

“MTI sometimes uncovers individuals and groups who violate the bond between creators and the public by taking original copyrighted works and performing them without appropriate compensation to the authors. Theaterpalooza is one such organization, ”the company said.

Walker noted that original works by Theaterpalooza staff are also licensed for performances in other communities, so she recognizes the importance of the fees. Although the company is behind in payments, it is not using the work without compensation, Walker said.

As for Theaterpalooza’s next performance, it will be a Halloween-themed play scheduled for October. “It’s an original,” Walker said.


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