There are very strict conditions on how someone can use another person's copyrighted work in the United States, and they are basically boiled down in a code of law known as "Fair Use."
When David Adjmi decided to put Fair Use to the test last month with the opening of his play "3C," he got attention not just from New York audiences, but also the copyright holders of the 1970s sitcom "Three's Company" that told him to cease and desist.
The play has already completed its scheduled run Off Broadway at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, and worried that his maximum $50,000 in annual income would be no match for Hollywood in a legal fight, agreed in email that he would no longer shop the script around, or do any further productions of "3C," according to The New York Times.
But other playwrights are encouraging Adjmi to fight -- allowing him to claim that "3C" does qualify as a parody under Fair Use, and that DLT Entertainment -- which owns "Three's Company" -- should simply back off.
"The fact that the lawyers for the long-gone show 'Three's Company' have nothing better to do, aside from billing legal hours like truffle pigs, than attempt to bully an Off Broadway playwright of modest means is an affront of the most base kind," said Jon Robin Baitz, a Pulitzer Prize finalist who is trying to gain attention to Adjmi's plight and help him find an affordable lawyer to fight his cause.
"Three's Company" aired from March 1977 to September 1984 on ABC, based on the British comedy "Man About the House." It originally starred John Ritter as a man moving into an apartment with two ladies, played by Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers, both having to convince the landlord, played by Norman Fell, that Ritter's character was gay, and that there were no shenanigans going on at the apartment.
It was a top 3 show through most of its early run, hitting No. 1 in the 1979-80 season.
DLT Entertainment president Donald Taffner Jr., said there are at least 17 elements in "3C" that match "Three's Company," including a male roommate pretending to be gay, and one of the female roommates being a sexy blonde minister's daughter.
"We're up for renewal soon with TV Land, and we're playing around with the idea of doing a theatrical version of 'Three's Company' ourselves, so we don't want anything out there that might cause harm," Taffner told the Times. "We think '3C' borrows far too many elements to make a Fair Use parody argument."
Taffner, by the way, is the son of the late Don Taffner Sr., the executive in charge of production for "Three's Company" that also worked on "Too Close for Comfort" and the "Three's Company" spinoff, "The Ropers."
For more on this potential legal battle, read the full story at The New York Times website.
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