Monday, January 26, 2015

Nonprofit Wants to Translate Screenplay

Dear Rich: I'm the director of a small amateur nonprofit theatre company that puts on plays in Italian. We're planning our next production, and we want to adapt a movie screenplay into a stage play. This would involve translating the screenplay into Italian and adapting for the stage. Do we need to obtain permission to do this or would this adaptation by a nonprofit be a fair use? 
The copyright laws apply to nonprofits the same way they do to for-profit enterprises. When a person creates a work like a screenplay, he or she automatically obtains a bundle of exclusive copyright rights in the work. These include the exclusive right to adapt the work into a new medium or translate it into a new language. Thus, you can’t adapt a screenplay into a stage play or translate it into Italian without obtaining permission from the copyright owner. The fair use rule does not apply to the adaptation of an entire work into a new medium. Answered by Stephen Fishman, author of The Copyright Handbook.