I was just checking the submission information for the Summer Performance Festival 2008. The following paragraph is nestled deep inside their submission agreement.
It troubles me.
"Without limitation of the foregoing, SPF shall exclusively own all now-known and hereafter existing rights to the Unsolicited Submissions of every kind and nature, throughout the Universe, and shall be entitled to unrestricted use of the Unsolicited Submissions for any purpose whatsoever, commercial or otherwise, without compensation of any kind to the provider of the Unsolicited Submissions."
Here's the entire text of the submission agreement:
PLEASE READ CAREFULLY:
Please note that all submissions to SPF must be complete scripts of live stage plays and/or musicals, the copyright in which shall at all times remain in the name of the person or persons listed as the copyright proprietors thereof. For the avoidance of doubt, SPF will be accepting submissions for the 2008 Summer Play Festival from July 16, 2007 - September 30, 2007 through http://www.spfnyc.com only. SPF only accepts full-length plays and full-length musicals for consideration and does not accept submissions for one-person shows or short plays. In the event your submission is not accepted by SPF for presentation in the 2008 Festival or does not conform to the submission guidelines set forth above, the submission will be promptly deleted from the SPF file storage system and any hardcopies printed by SPF's employees for use in reviewing your submission will be promptly destroyed. SPF will not retain file, archival or any copies of non-accepted submissions whatsoever, nor will SPF, under any circumstances, return copies of submitted scripts. Therefore, it is your sole responsibility to retain originals of any submissions.
Further, it is SPF's policy to not accept unsolicited submissions of creative ideas or materials that are not in the form of a complete script of a live stage play or musical. Accordingly, if you send information about the script or yourself, do NOT include confidential or proprietary information, such as concepts, designs, stories, ideas, original artwork, or other original creative materials or suggestions which are not included within your submission, and do NOT send, under any circumstances, materials unrelated to your submission (including, but not limited to creative suggestions, ideas, notes, drawings, concepts, designs, treatments, scene selections or excerpted portions from non-submitted scripts of plays or musicals, individual musical compositions, or other elements listed above). This is necessary to prevent possible future misunderstandings when scripts created by other persons submitting scripts to SPF, or projects developed by SPF's own employees, or licensees might seem to others to be similar to their own creative work. You acknowledge and agree that SPF at all times solicits a variety of scripts of plays and musicals in various stages of development, and that the results of these endeavors may be similar or identical to your own projects. If you ignore SPF's policy and submit any creative suggestions, ideas, notes, drawings, concepts, designs, other elements listed above, or other information (collectively, "Unsolicited Submissions"), you hereby assign to SPF all rights of every nature and description, in perpetuity, throughout the Universe, in such Unsolicited Submissions. The Unsolicited Submissions shall be deemed, and shall remain, the property of SPF. None of the Unsolicited Submissions shall be subject to any obligation of confidence on SPF's part and SPF shall not be liable for any use or disclosure of any Unsolicited Submissions. Without limitation of the foregoing, SPF shall exclusively own all now-known and hereafter existing rights to the Unsolicited Submissions of every kind and nature, throughout the Universe, and shall be entitled to unrestricted use of the Unsolicited Submissions for any purpose whatsoever, commercial or otherwise, without compensation of any kind to the provider of the Unsolicited Submissions.
SPF DOES NOT PROMISE THAT THE SPF WEBSITE OR ANY CONTENT, SERVICE OR FEATURE OF THE SPF WEBSITE (COLLECTIVELY, THE "SITE") WILL BE ERROR-FREE OR UNINTERRUPTED, OR THAT ANY DEFECTS WILL BE CORRECTED, OR THAT YOUR USE OF THE SITE WILL PROVIDE SPECIFIC RESULTS. THE SITE AND ITS CONTENT ARE DELIVERED ON AN "AS-IS" AND "AS-AVAILABLE" BASIS. ALL INFORMATION PROVIDED ON THE SITE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE. SPF CANNOT ENSURE THAT ANY FILES OR OTHER DATA YOU DOWNLOAD FROM THE SITE WILL BE FREE OF VIRUSES OR CONTAMINATION OR DESTRUCTIVE FEATURES. SPF DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING ANY WARRANTIES OF ACCURACY, NON-INFRINGEMENT, MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. SPF DISCLAIMS ANY AND ALL LIABILITY FOR THE ACTS, OMISSIONS AND CONDUCT OF ANY THIRD PARTIES IN CONNECTION WITH OR RELATED TO YOUR USE OF THE SITE. YOU ASSUME TOTAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR USE OF THE SITE AND ANY LINKED SITES. YOUR SOLE REMEDY AGAINST SPF FOR DISSATISFACTION WITH THE SITE OR ANY CONTENT IS TO STOP USING THE SITE OR ANY SUCH CONTENT. THIS LIMITATION OF RELIEF IS A PART OF A BARGAINED FOR EXCHANGE BETWEEN THE PARTIES.
The above disclaimer applies to any damages, liability or injuries caused by any failure of performance, error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, computer virus, communication line failure, theft or destruction of or unauthorized access to, alteration of, or use, whether for breach of contract, tort, negligence or any other cause of action.
SPF reserves the right to do any of the following, at any time, without notice: (1) to modify, suspend or terminate operation of or access to the Site, or any portion of the Site, for any reason; (2) to modify or change the Site, or any portion of the Site, and any applicable policies or terms; and (3) to interrupt the operation of the Site, or any portion of the Site, as necessary to perform routine or non-routine maintenance, error correction, or other changes.
PS -- playwrights I know who have had their work produced by this festival have reported having a great time. It comes highly recommended, so I encourage folks to -- read their guidelines -- and if you've got a play you think might suit them -- submit it!
Last edited on Wed Aug 8th, 2007 09:22 pm by katoagogo
Please note that all submissions to SPF must be complete scripts of live stage plays and/or musicals, the copyright in which shall at all times remain in the name of the person or persons listed as the copyright proprietors thereof.
I think the reason for the hyperbolic paragraph about owning the rights to the universe is that in the past people have sent ideas or outlines instead of an actual play script.
Imagine getting this:
"It's about a guy who's been through a lot. he meets a girl at a diner or the movies. He falls for her, but she doesn't like him. After a misunderstanding they realise that they are meant for each other and the fall in love."
There are probably a few more ambiguous paragraphs attached.
Then, someone on your staff writes a one-act that wins an award, with the basic gist of the "idea" noted above.
Nobody stole that idea. An idea is just an idea. That's why you cannot copyright it. But you can get a lawyer and sue sue sue some poor working stiff who got a gig once in the literary office of a play festival.
That's what the point of that paragraph is for. If you're silly enough to not know the difference between an outline and an actual play -- then maybe you should lose the rights to your idea. You weren't writing that brilliant romantic comedy anyway...
So, it's just a paragraph to ward away the bozos who aren't doing the work, and just clogging up the SPF inbox.
Of course, if this kind of tactict is off-putting, then maybe this isn't the theater group for you.
Last edited on Thu Aug 9th, 2007 04:28 pm by katoagogo
The Summer Play Festival is easily the most prestigious play festival in NYC, highly respected and very well attended. Most shows sell out their entire runs, and all shows chosen are given a proper budget in which to produce their show. The rights of the works remain with the author, and the festival is literally all about the writers, as the SPF was started to give writers who've not had an Off-Broadway show (or better) that all-important opportunity to see their work done with sets, lights, costumes, directors and professional actors.
So, do not hesitate to enter the SPF, and best of luck to you!
As a follow up to my question last week, here is the response I received from the Dramatists Guild a few minutes ago.
You should not find troubling the language in SPF’s submission agreement as to “”Unsolicited Submissions.” They have defined Unsolicited Submissions as “creative suggestions, ideas, notes, drawings, concepts, designs, treatments, scene selections or excerpted portions from non-submitted scripts of plays or musicals, individual musical compositions,” and other such materials that “are not included within your submission.” Most of what they mention would not trigger copyright issues, anyway. Nevertheless, they are merely attempting to protect themselves from the person who submits her script along with ancillary ideas.
It is not uncommon for festivals and publishers to receive something other than a script from an author. For example, an author could send a script and, in a cover letter, state, “I also have an idea for a detective story wherein a private detective and his hard-boiled, underpaid secretary stumble upon evidence that leads them to finding a living Jimmy Hoffa in Southern Oregon!” While this may or may not be an original idea, ideas are not protected under copyright—original expression of those ideas is. Therefore, if a different author submits a completed detective story with all the above-mentioned elements, the festival or publisher can accept it from that author without fear of infringing another’s copyright.
The paragraph you found troubling is SPF’s way of protecting itself from author’s who gave unsolicited, ancillary ideas in addition to or as substitution for a completed script. They are right and wise to protect themselves in this manner. I strongly encourage you to follow their instructions very closely.