Royal Court Theatre signs up to ground-breaking principles for digital broadcast of stage plays

Published on Thu 7 Apr 2022

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain has agreed a ground-breaking set of principles to govern the digital broadcasts of stage plays by the Royal Court, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

Working with colleagues in the Personal Managers’ Association (literary agents), WGGB has negotiated seven principles with the three theatres (known as the TNC), which it is hoped will inspire best practice in digital broadcast throughout the sector.

The principles protect playwrights following the explosion in livestreaming and other forms of digital delivery of stage plays post-Covid.

The principles state that playwrights do not have to grant the digital rights in their play if they don’t want to; and, if they do grant these rights, require separate negotiations on upfront fees, advances, and, where appropriate, royalties.

Negotiations on pay will have to take into account audience size, reach, the time window and distribution model of the delivery. Buy-outs of rights are prohibited, except in certain educational settings, while spin-off film and television rights will also remain with the writer.

The writer will also have the right to be creatively consulted on the digital capture and production process to protect the textual integrity of their original script.

The three theatres have also committed themselves to taking any commercially reasonable steps to prevent illegal downloading/piracy.

View the full principles here.

The seven principles have been negotiated with the three theatres in response to  the launch of WGGB’s publication Digital Delivery of New Plays in September 2021. The union’s response to the impact of Covid on the theatre sector won the support of a number of leading playwrights, including Caryl Churchill, April de Angelis, Nick Dear, David Edgar, David Eldridge, Lee Hall, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Lucy Kirkwood, Bryony Lavery, Simon Stephens, Sir Tom Stoppard, Jack Thorne and Roy Williams OBE (view quotes from the playwrights here).

Negotiations are continuing with UK Theatre and other theatre management bodies to spread the principles through the sector.

Read more on the WGGB’s website here.