Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Another Writer Facing Down Goliath

“I was shocked. A writer works all her life trying to have a first hit. I was not treated well, given the revenue stream I created for them.” -Jessica Bendinger

Wow! Yet again, a writer's creation has been allegedly usurped by a corporation who continues to reap profits without sharing. That might be why the Writer's Guild of America is trying to shut down production of "Bring It On: The Musical."

Bendinger claims the producers, specifically Beacon Communications Corp. and Beacon Communications, LLC, are using her original work as the basis for this new stage production without giving her a share of the profits.

This is hardly news, as writers routinely finding themselves on the wrong side of the revenue stream once their work grows beyond the original intention.
If it's a book, they lose on the movie deal; if it's a film, they lose on sequels or stage productions or licensing deals. (If there is a way to make money off the back of someone else's work, you can bet someone has tried it.)

The best advice for budding writers is to do what George Lucas did when he created Star Wars: Sign a contract that explicitly gives you the rights you feel you need, and that will protect you. If you aren't sure what those might be, get some legal advice.

Better to pay for a lawyer before your work is appropriated, rather than having to try and reclaim your rights later.

The confidential arbitration demand, filed a week ago, asserts that Beacon Communications Corp. and Beacon Communications, LLC are exploiting Bendinger’s dramatic rights in the cheerleader-themed Bring It On without her consent, in violation of the guild agreement’s “separated rights” provisions. It seeks damages and an injunction against Bring It On: The Musical, which is being coproduced by Universal Pictures Stage Productions, Beacon Communications and others.

Beacon’s outside counsel for the matter, Alan Brunswick of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, tells THR, “The claim is without merit. We will vigorously defend it.”

In an interview, Bendinger counters that “Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. Compensation is.”

The screenwriter says she first heard about the show “in the worst way.” She had been working on a stage version of her own for six years and was developing the project with former Universal production chief Marc Platt, producer of the Broadway hit Wicked. But then she learned that a New York theater attorney not affiliated with her had been heard to say at a cocktail party that he was shopping the theatrical rights to the movie – the same rights she had been seeking to exploit.

The play subsequently opened for previews in Atlanta earlier this year. It’s scheduled to begin a four-city national tour in Los Angeles on October 30.

Click here to read the entire article.

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