When a high school drama club plans to stage a lavish musical production, there are many preparations to make. In addition to designing costumes, sets and props, the director, usually a teacher, must plot the scenes and decide how to schedule rehearsals. Many behind-the-scenes tasks must be completed before auditions can take place. One important step that cannot be skipped is ensuring the school has obtained the legal right to stage the production without violating intellectual property law.
Unfortunately for one high school in another state, a teacher and director apparently failed to secure those rights when she staged “The Lion King.” The cast of the production performed two shows for elementary school children and three public performances before the school administration abruptly cancelled the show. The school gave vague reasons for the cancellation, but media reports revealed that the school board is investigating accusations that the teacher did not secure the rights to the popular play.
Disney is notoriously careful about guarding its copyrights, and royalty payments are expected in full before a school can hold auditions or advertise the performances. Some critics of the incident say there is no excuse for a drama teacher to attempt a production of such high profile without securing the rights beforehand. The cancellation of the show left many students disappointed after contributing much time to rehearsals and preparation.
Violating intellectual property rights can lead to significant consequences, even for a public high school. The school may be required to pay royalties for each performance and would need permission for any future ones. The owner of the copyright would have every right to pursue damages since the play is in high demand, and other schools are likely watching for the outcome of this case. New York artists may also need to take drastic steps to protect their works with the help of an experienced attorney.
Source: wtkr.com, “Suffolk high school production of ‘The Lion King’ canceled after copyright concerns rise“, April 27, 2018