Allegations of copyright infringement are a playwright’s worst nightmare. So it is understandable that David Adjmi, who wrote the play “3C,” was frightened when producers received a cease-and-desist letter. Adjmi’s play explores sexual and gender dynamics in the TV show, “Three’s Company.” DLT Entertainment, the company that owns the copyright to the TV series, filed a legal protest with Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre. At issue was whether the author took too many elements from the series to make his point.
Like the series, Adjmi’s play features three roommates: two women and one man. The male character must pretend to be gay in order to live with the women. If you remember, Jack Tripper often had to use the same trick in the TV program. There is also a character similar to Larry, another character from the series.
Unlike the TV show, Admji added elements to the story and the characters. Still, audience members and critics understood that the play was commenting on the TV show. Some people even thought that the play was better than the series.
DLT Entertainment told Admji that the play should never be produced again. They have also told the playwright that he cannot publish the script. If he did not agree to the terms, the company would sue him for copyright infringement. According to the New York Times, Adjmi decided to give in to the company’s demands. He cannot afford to fight a large entertainment company in court. But many playwrights, including Jon Robin Baitz, believe that the playwright should have his day in court.
At issue for many theater people is the idea that a company can stop them from commenting on an established piece of work. Many people believe Admji’s play is a parody of the series. Parody is supposed to be protected by law; however, playwrights must have the means to launch a fight. Without funds, companies could shut down productions for any reason.