Apparently, Three's a Crowd on Off-Broadway
Is it a parody, or is it copyright infringement? That's the issue currently being debated over an Off-Broadway stage play that drew heavily on the old TV sitcom, Three's Company.
David Adjmi's play, 3C, opened last month, only to have a cease and desist letter turn up in the producer's hands on the same day as opening night. DLT Entertainment, which owns the copyright on the TV show, accused Mr. Adjmi of appropriating too many elements of Three's Company in his play, thus infringing on its intellectual property and diminishing its value should DLT choose to create a stage version of its own.
Neither Mr. Adjmi nor anyone else denies that 3C borrows much from Three's Company. But the playwright apparently believed he was firmly grounded in the fair use exception known as parody. (Parody allows one to appropriate enough of the source material in order to permit the audience to know what it is that's being lampooned.) But even parody has its limits as far as fair use goes.
Not having seen the play, I couldn't even begin to offer an opinion as to whether 3C might have overstepped the fair use bounds. Regardless, rather than engage in what could have been a costly legal battle, the playwright chose to close the play indefinitely.
Meanwhile, fellow theater professionals have rallied to Mr. Adjmi's side. An open letter from them appears here.
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