Friday, January 31, 2014

Playwright Sues to Salvage Play Deconstructing ‘Three’s Company’; New York Times, 1/30/14

Patrick Healy, New York Times; Playwright Sues to Salvage Play Deconstructing ‘Three’s Company’ :
"The New York playwright David Adjmi, best known for Off Broadway satirical works like “Marie Antoinette,” went to federal court on Thursday to try to salvage his play “3C,” which has been tied up by the copyright owner of “Three’s Company,” the landmark television comedy that Mr. Adjmi deconstructs through a dark lens in “3C.”
In a 20-page complaint, which was accompanied by supportive comments from acclaimed theater artists like Jon Robin Baitz, Tony Kushner and Stephen Sondheim, Mr. Adjmi asked the Southern District Court of New York to declare that “3C” does not infringe on the copyright of “Three’s Company,” which ran from 1977 to 1984 and remains in syndication. Mr. Adjmi’s lawyers, citing the First Amendment and the legal doctrine of fair use, argue that “3C” is an original parody that only borrows some elements from the sitcom to examine its premise, character types, and homophobia and sexism in that era...
Mr. Adjmi’s lawyers cite multiple examples of parodies that were protected under the fair use doctrine, including the novel “The Wind Done Gone” (which re-tells much of “Gone With the Wind” from a slave’s perspective) and a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that featured a tourism jingle from Biblical times, “I Love Sodom,” sung to the tune of “I Love New York.” Plays like “Mr. Burns” (which uses elements from “The Simpsons”) and “Dog Sees God” (a parody of the Peanuts cartoons) have also successfully avoided copyright problems by taking personality traits and references from the original material and presenting them in wholly new ways."

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