When a musical opens on Broadway, what aspects of the production are covered by copyright’s protection of “dramatic works”? The script clearly is (although policing infringement is nigh impossible), but courts have yet to address whether the work of the director or designers should be afforded copyright protections. Nonetheless, within the close-knit professional New York theater community, rarely do artists significantly copy the work of others. This Comment argues that this is because the community has developed its own welfare-maximizing norms to address intellectual property. However, looking at larger cross-sections of American theater (such as all professional theaters independent of location or theaters of all professional statuses within a geographic area), these norms are less consistently followed.
This Comment defines two intellectual property norms in the professional New York theater community: one protecting the intent of playwrights and another protecting the work of directors and designers. The Comment then argues that, although these norms are less efficient in looser-knit theater communities, they are welfare maximizing within the professional New York theater community.