Article from Variety - June 26, 2005
Toon tuners take a write turn

B'way scribes revise rules on book deals

As more toons become tuners, the Broadway system has won a decisive round over the Hollywood method.

DreamWorks and Disney are ready to sign production contracts that would allow playwrights David Lindsay-AbaireDavid Lindsay-Abaire, Doug Wright and David Henry Hwang to retain copyright to their books for the respective stage musicals "Shrek," "The Little Mermaid" and "Tarzan."

That means the trio of writers now has greater control over stock and amateur rights, which in the case of a hit musical can be a virtual lifetime annuity.

On the surface, the fact seems like non-news: Playwrights almost always retain copyright of their works.

But as more and more screenplays are being turned into plays, that tradition has been threatened. Does the book writer of a musical deserve the copyright when he's adapted a work in which the original writer(s) didn't get that same privilege?

The implications reach far beyond those three scribes. LegitLegit agents and lawyers have been watching the negotiations for "Shrek," "Mermaid" and "Tarzan""Tarzan" with extreme scrutiny. As one agent put it, "If Lindsay-Abaire and Wright caved, other producers would demand work-for-hire. It would be the beginning of the end for theater writers."