Sep
22

Holding on for dear life.

Maybe it’s because I’m hosting a talk on “Intellectual Property in the Arts” later this fall, or maybe it’s because the new LORT (League of Resident Theatres) agreement with designers includes provisions for media reproduction of our work, but I’ve been thinking about the issue of competition, confidentiality and intellectual property recently.

At the workshop my p.a.v.e. colleagues and I led two weeks ago, one of the student attendees was very concerned about confidentiality, about the proprietary nature of his ideas. This student was way ahead of me in considering the protection of his ideas. I wish I had been as wary (I hesitate to say “paranoid”) twenty-five years ago when I designed a summer production of a new musical bound, I found out later, for Broadway. Imagine my surprise/disgust/dismay when a version of the custom templates (aka “gobos”) I designed for the finale appeared in the Broadway production a year later, “designed” by someone else.

I think we all want to be good collaborators and citizens of the global arts community, but at what point do we hold up our hands and say: “That’s mine and not yours and I deserve the credit and the financial reward!” Should we ever do so? Students are starting to submit applications for our next round of p.a.v.e. funding. Without sharing any specific information, or divulging anyone’s intellectual property, I note with interest that one team’s business plan actually calls for credit and revenue sharing equally in a kind of artistic co-op. While this idea isn’t new, I’m intrigued by the idea of revenue sharing within an entrepreneurial framework. With all the misplaced accusations of “socialism” in the media lately, what I’m seeing from the trenches of academia is that it may be possible to be both socialistic and profitable. That it just might be more innovative to share one’s intellectual property freely than hold on to it for dear life.

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