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Amateur Plays - Copyright And Royalty

( Originally Published 1923 )

THE following statement regarding royalties on amateur plays was prepared by Mr. Allen J. Carter, an attorney of Chicago, for one of the Drama League pamphlets listing amateur plays :

" The copyright law of the United States requires that every play, whether published or unpublished, for which copyright protection is claimed, must be registered in the copyright office at Washington, D.C. Until such registration, no action for infringement of copyright can be maintained. The register of copyrights keeps a complete record and index of all copyright entries and publishes a catalogue of such entries at regular intervals. Dramatic works are entered under Class D and are found indexed under that heading in Part I, Group II of the catalogues: Copies of these catalogues are on file in most of the larger public libraries, and sets or parts of sets may be purchased from the Superintendent of Public Documents at Washing-ton, D.C. Anyone wishing to learn whether a particular play has been properly entered for copy-right need only consult a set of these catalogues. If such a set is not available, the information will be promptly furnished by the register of copyrights, Washington, D.C., upon request.

" Whenever a play has been published, examination of a copy of an authorized printed edition will disclose whether such play has been properly copy-righted. The law requires that a notice of copyright must be placed either upon the title page, or upon the page immediately following, of each copy published or offered for sale in the United States. Such notice must consist either of the word ` Copyright ' or the abbreviation 'Cow:, accompanied by the name of the copyright proprietor and the year in which copyright was secured by publication. If published prior to March 4, 1909, the notice may also be in the following form: ` Entered according to Act of Congress in the year , by A. B. in the office of the Librarian of Congress at Washing-ton.' Whenever the author of a play or anyone to whom he has assigned his rights publishes such play without proper notice of copyright in some one of the three authorized forms above mentioned, the play then and forever after becomes the property of the public and may be performed and printed at will by anyone. No subsequent attempt to copyright such play would be valid, and any valid copyright previously secured would be vitiated.

A play which has never been published nor offered for sale, and which exists only in manuscript form, may be copyrighted upon proper entry being made at the copyright office in Washington, D.C. Should such play be later published, however, the publication must comply with all the requirements of the law as to notice of copyright.

"Any person who infringes the copyright in any play shall be liable (a) To an injunction restraining said infringement ; (b) to pay actual damages to the copyright proprietor, or in place of actual dam-ages $100.00 for the first infringing performance and $50.00 for each succeeding one ; (c) to imprisonment not to exceed one year, or to a fine not to exceed $1,000.00, or both, wherever such person has infringed such copyright wilfully and for profit.

"It follows, therefore, that if any group of amateurs perform a copyrighted play without having obtained the consent of the author or copyright proprietor, they are collectively liable to damages of at least $100.00 under whatever conditions the performance is given. If they do it wilfully and for profit, they are in addition each individually liable to fine and imprisonment under the criminal provision of the act.

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