Inspiration or Imitation: Copyright Protection for Stage Directions

74 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2009 Last revised: 24 May 2012


This article examines an important and timely issue involving the extent of copyright protection for stage directions. The recent lawsuits involving the regional productions of the Broadway hit "Urinetown" indicate that stage directors and their union, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, are going to continue to press the courts and the Copyright Office for greater protection of what they perceive as their unique creative contribution to the theatrical arts. This article explores a myriad of issues related to copyright protection for stage directions and discusses copyrightable subject matter, copyright ownership, infringement, defenses to infringement, and other possible legal theories for protection of stage directions. It concludes that although stage directions are clearly copyrightable expression, the extent of copyright protection will necessarily be narrow because of doctrines such as scenes a faire and merger.

Keywords: Copyright, Stage Directions, Intellectual Property

Suggested Citation

Livingston, Margit, Inspiration or Imitation: Copyright Protection for Stage Directions. B. C. Law Review, Vol. 50, 2009; The DePaul University College of Law, Technology, Law & Culture Research Series Paper No. 09-002. Available at SSRN:

Margit Livingston (Contact Author)

DePaul University College of Law ( email )

25 East Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60604-2287
United States
3123628701 (Phone)
3123625448 (Fax)

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