Music Theatre International has filed a complaint against Theaterpalooza Community Theater Productions, Inc. in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for presenting at least 16 unauthorized productions of MTI titles.
Theaterpalooza, which operates in and around Ashburn and Leesburg in Virginia and Hagerstown, Maryland, offers youth musical theatre classes that culminate in full productions of various musicals that are open to the public. Students pay tuition of up to $600 to participate, and the theatre also charges $12-$15 per ticket for the public performances of its shows.
MTI alleges that in recent years, the theatre has presented unlicensed productions of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, Matilda, Seussical, Little Shop of Horrors, and Honk!, while also currently advertising upcoming productions of Annie, Mamma Mia!, and Hairspray.
The lawsuit follows repeated attempts on MTI’s behalf requesting that Theaterpalooza and its owner, Teresa Walker, pay the appropriate royalties to the show’s authors and provide written assurance that it would cease to produce illegal productions without a contract.
The suit seeks either actual damages including profits from the productions or maximum statutory damages, an injunction against continued infringement, attorneys' fees, costs, and prejudgment interest.
“At MTI, we promote artistic expression by ensuring that every copyrighted work is properly licensed for performance,” explained MTI President and CEO Drew Cohen. “Since our mission is to promote and facilitate the performance of musical theatre, we do not like to take formal legal action, and usually we do not need to do so. But it is unfair to our authors and the thousands of customers who work hard in making contributions to our common cultural heritage and enrichment to allow unlicensed, repeat infringements of those valuable properties. Aside from depriving the shows’ creators of their livelihood, failing to obtain a license also inhibits MTI from ensuring the shows are being properly presented and delivering what the audiences have paid for and expect.”