Play Thieves

play thieves

I’m often asked how we stop people from performing or copying our plays without permission. The short answer is that we can’t. We can no more stop someone from photocopying a book as we can stop them from taking a candy bar from the 7-11. If someone’s going to steal, they are going to steal.

I’m not saying that we keep our heads in the sand and ignore illegal productions. If we find an infringement we pursue it. And we make sure that copyright/royalty information is readily available. We are clear that performances of our plays incur a royalty. When someone does a play without paying royalties they are knowingly breaking the law.

To be honest, it hurts to find infringements. It hurts because I know how hard our writers work to craft their plays. It hurts because someone is taking money from their pockets. It hurts because I don’t like confrontation and I don’t like thinking of theatre makers as thieves.

Stealing from a playwright is like peeing in your own pool. You’ll probably get away with it but you’re victimizing everyone in the community. Seth Godin’s recent blog post eloquently summarizes exactly how this all works. It all comes down to community.

The upside is that the overwhelming majority of productions of our plays are done legally. We have a wonderful community of customers that support our work, understand our role, appreciate what we do, and use the exercises and free resources we make available.

To our community, I give thanks. You guys are awesome and we love each and every one of you.

About the author

Craig Mason


  • The world has changed. Playwrights have to write more plays at a faster rate in order to keep up. Eventually independent producers will take over the mainstream of publishing much like independent movie producers are on the same playing field and independent music producers will take over studios. All the best to those people who keep trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, but innovation will fix this. That’s why iBooks and Amazon are licensing with Samuel French and Dramatist, but even DRM will eventually fail this model. The production companies who think like a playwright will win, not the production companies who think like we did about 15 years ago. Read “Who Moved My Cheese?” and be the leader of this innovation.

  • I always instruct my students in the rules of royalties and fair use. They always come back with “who will know?” and I tell them I’ll know and they know: an artist should get paid for their work. The playwright writes the play w/o pay and now, when we produce that play, the playwright gets paid. That’s how it works. The discussion eventually gets to downloading music and I tell them the same thing: an artist should get paid for their work.