Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On Copyright

Julius (Charles Hargrave), Leo (Tim Keo) & Rusty (Valerie C. Kilmer)
Talespinner Childern's Theatre (2015)
Steve Wagner Photography
But do not think we stole these tales
For that would make us thieves.

- from "Rosalynde & The Falcon"
There has been a lot of talk lately about copyright, following the Blurred Lines decision … actually, whenever the subject of the Blurred Lines decision comes up, the conversation is generally high-jacked by people who just want to keep emphasizing what a terrible song Blurred Lines is.

The fact is, copyright is a bizarre legal concept when it comes to art, imitation and appropriation. The Blurred Lines verdict is bad, because it imposed a penalty based on a mood or feeling - a groove, if you will - and not on any specifically defined melody.

Rosalynde (Rose Leisner) & Roland (Ryan Hardge)
Culver City Public Theatre (2019)
Likewise, Sam Smith didn’t even bother to fight a potential copyright challenge from Tom Petty et alia when it was brought to his attention that the chorus of his Stay With Me has the same seven notes in the same order as part of the chorus of Petty's Won’t Back Down. Whether or not you think this is a fair decision depends a lot on whether you are over or under the age of 40.

In Rosalynde & The Falcon which opened this weekend at Talespinner Children’s Theatre, there is a running gag about copyright violation (I know, right?) in which one character, after mentioning a familiar song title, begins to sing that song but gets interrupted with the warning “Copyright!” before reaching the legally-punishable third note.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the text of Rosalynde & The Falcon includes samples from or allusions to the following works and artists. See if you can find all of them:

  • Rosalynde by Thomas Lodge
  • Gamelyn by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, Macbeth and King Lear
  • Sneewittchen AKA Snowdrop AKA Snow White
  • Goldilocks
  • Robin Hood
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Lewis Carroll
  • Simon & Garfunkel
  • Woody Allen
  • Cole Porter
  • Jack Kerouac
  • MC Hammer
  • Battlestar Galactica*
  • The Firesign Theatre 
... and, of course, The Marx Brothers.  
"You may want to sneak back to see it again ... just to make sure you caught all the jokes." - Christine Howey, Cleveland Scene 
UPDATE: Culver City Public Theatre presents Rosalynde & The Falcon in Carlson Park,  July 13 - August 4, 2019

*Further update: We had actually cut the "Battlestar Galactica" joke before the show premiered in 2015. You be the judge: 
RUSTY: President Rosalynde!
LEO: (aside) "All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again."
JULIUS: (aside) Mister J.M. Barrie.

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