Musicals licensor Music Theatre International has been awarded $450,000 plus attorney's fees by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for a complaint against Theaterpalooza Community Theater Productions, Inc. concerning a number of unauthorized and unlicensed productions.
MTI will donate a portion of the damages collected to Jumpstart Theatre, an initiative from the Educational Theatre Foundation that helps create sustainable theatre programs in underserved communities.
MTI's complaint was filed after the Virginia youth theatre presented unlicensed and unauthorized performances of at least 16 well-known musicals represented by MTI, including Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka, Matilda, Seussical, Little Shop of Horrors, and Honk! The global licensor pursued legal action after repeated requests to cease the unlicensed performances made to Theaterpalooza owner Teresa Walker went ignored over a period of more than three years.
Theaterpalooza was found to have been aware of MTI's copyrights on the musicals as early as January 12, 2015. Because the youth theatre continued to perform and advertise unlicensed performances after that date, Theaterpalooza "willfully infringed" on MTI's protected works, according to the Magistrate Judge's finding adopted by the court.
"We are pleased that the court recognized the vital importance of protecting authors' rights to license their work and condemned the ongoing behavior of Theaterpalooza in this case” stated Drew Cohen, President and CEO of Music Theatre International. “MTI actively endeavors to prevent this kind of piracy because of the economic harm it causes our family of authors and the lack of fairness it imposes on our legitimate customers. MTI has received wonderful encouragement for this legal action from the Broadway community as well as from our customers, all of whom contribute both to the creation and to the performance of musical theatre every day. Being able to support EdTA's Jumpstart program with the proceeds from this lawsuit is the icing on the cake."
MTI was represented in this case by Steven Hollman, Ed Komen, and James Bierman from the Washington, DC office of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.