Friday, August 31, 2007

The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions

Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions

Although I've always been a booster of the Dramatists Guild, considering it good sense for playwrights to band together, I never thought I would end up working so closely with the Guild in its fight to protect authors' rights. But when a director registered an unauthorized derivative copyright based on my play, and then sued me when I produced the play, claiming I was infringing his "blocking and choreography script," I immediately turned to the Guild for help.

What happened was this: in October 2004 my partner Jonathan Flagg and I, through our company Mergatroyd Productions, produced my play TAM LIN off-off Broadway for the second year in a row. We hired Edward Einhorn to direct. Then we had differences with him and fired him. We planned to pay him for his services, but disagreed with him on the amount. He thought he deserved one thousand dollars, which he would have been due had he completed the project. We felt he deserved less.

I was actually in favor of paying him a thousand dollars just so he would go away and I would never have to have any dealings with him ever again, but Jonathan disagreed, because Einhorn hadn't finished the work. We had fired him in part because he had stopped working and, in the words of the judge, "basically sulked." After we fired him he emailed the cast and crew in an effort to sabotage our show. In the email he implied that we didn't intend to pay the actors and told them to demand their payment immediately. Fortunately the actors ignored him. And we did pay them exactly what we said we would, when we said we would. In fact, we've never had an issue with paying anybody, ever, except this one director.

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