CONTRACT / COPYRIGHT
The producers of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles have filed a copyright infringement suit against Broadway’s Let It Be – another Beatles’ tribute show that started life in London. The creators of Rain, which played on Broadway from October 2010 to July 2011 filed the suit last month against Let It Be producers Jeff Parry and Annerin Productions (amongst others) and are asking for a 50-50 split of the revenue from Let It Be, and asks that the Rain Corporation is listed as a joint author of Let It Be. The suit claims that Let It Be pulls much of its material from Rain, including musical arrangements, songs used in the show, artwork, staging, costume styling and more. Now readers might think – hang on – the songs – by the Beatles – costumes – by the Beatles – arrangements – by the Beatles! However, both shows include performances of The Beatles’ songs and dialogue between the actors playing the iconic band members. Rain’s score has 31 of The Beatles’ greatest hits, such as Yesterday and Hey Jude, and 28 of these appear in Let It Be. The Rain creators claim that “the artwork used as backround during the performance of many of those songs are similar or identical”. Peter Cane, one of Let It Be’s lawyers, told The New York Times that the copyright claim was unfounded, asking: “How do you monopolise the ability to present an impersonation of The Beatles? How many different ways can you really do it?” The Beatles acted a certain way, they played certain notes, they spoke a certain way.”
The background seems more complicated: it seems the Rain Corporation and the defendants originally agreed to create a theatrical production in 2005. In 2009 the agreement was modified as a “50-50 percent partnership.” The 2009 agreement expired two days before Let It Be began previews in London last September, and according to the lawsuit, producer Parry sent an e-mail stating that the 50-50 partnership agreement no longer pertained and that Rain creators were now entitled to 7.125 percent of the revenues. What constituted “revenues” of course would be critical. The Rain Corporation’s lawsuit seeks to maintain the original percentage for the Broadway and any subsequent productions of Let It Be. Let it Be opened on Broadway on July 24th despite the dispute.