Playwrights and composers, including Stephen Schwartz, Jon Robin Baitz, Tony Kushner, Stephen Sondheim, John Patrick Shanley, and Terrence McNally have recently rushed to the defense of their fellow writer David Adjmi in his legal battle against DLT Entertainment, the owner of the rights to the ‘70s sitcom “Three’s Company.” The fight was enjoined over Adjmi’s most recent work, “3C,” a dark parody of the TV series. Though the play received mixed reviews and played just over a month at the Rattlestick, a small off-Broadway theater, lawyers representing DLT earlier this month sent the promising young playwright a cease-and-desist letter. Citing copyright infringement, they insisted that there be no more productions of the work and that it not be published. They also demanded that Adjmi write a letter agreeing to their demands.
Adjmi’s peers wrote in an open letter that “specious and spurious legal bullying of artists should be vigorously opposed.” And yesterday, the Dramatist Guild of America, a professional association of writers, composers, and lyricists, issued another strongly-worded statement of support for Adjmi. Signed by its president, Stephen Schwartz, it read, in part, “Works of parody are protected under the ‘fair use’ doctrine of copyright law, because such works serves as valuable social criticism. Corporate interests may prefer not to have their properties targeted for mockery, but artists have the right to do so, regardless of the best bullying tactics that corporate profits can buy.” The Guild is offering Adjmi pro-bono legal counsel through their non-profit Dramatists Legal Defense Fund. “We are waiting to hear from David on how he would like us to be involved, if at all,” said Ralph Sevush, the Guild’s Executive Director of Business Affairs. “He is currently considering various legal options.”
In response to the Dramatists Guild letter, Jonathan Reichman of Kenyon & Kenyon LLP, which represents DLT Entertainment, said that the firm stands by its previous statement that this is a case of copyright infringement. “We don’t think we’re the big bad corporate bully,” he said. “We’re not trying to come down hard on anybody.” The company’s aggressive behavior may lie in the fact that the TV show continues to run in syndication and that a stage adaptation of “Three’s Company” is in the works — part of a trend which includes two other TV series, “The Addams Family” and now, reportedly, “Green Acres.”
Image: Hannah Cabell and Anna Chlumsky in 3C / Joan Marcus