Calendar Feature: August 2018 – Rent


Did you know the Broadway musical Rent was involved in litigation in New York City? Learn about the case and court involved in our 2018 calendar, which is featured this month!

Image: The cast of Rent at New York Theater Workshop, 1996, photographed by Sara Krulwich for the New York Times. Copyright Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Image: Poster for Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème with artwork by Aldofo Hohenstein 1896. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The rock musical Rent with music, lyrics, and book by Jonathan Larson, is loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme and involves a group of talented young artists trying to succeed in New York.

The production first appeared at the New York Theatre Workshop in 1993. The show won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and moved to Broadway in 1996.

On Broadway, Rent gained critical acclaim and won a Tony Award for Best Musical among other awards. The Broadway production closed on September 7, 2008 after a 12-year run of 5,123 performances.

In Thomson v. Larson, 147 F.3d 195 (2d Cir. 1998), Lynn Thomson claimed that, along with principal playwright Jonathan Larson, she co-authored a “new version” of the musical. The two, however, did not specify their respective rights by contract, and the case raised the question whether Rent qualifies as a statutory “joint work” co-authored by Thomson.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit determined that Thomson was not a co-author of Rent, in that she did not meet her burden of establishing that she made independent copyrightable contributions to the musical or that the parties fully intended to be co-authors.

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