Rightholders declared their readiness to support theaters due to the global situation


Theaters, museums and lecture halls urgently reorganize their work – and transfer all events online. Forbes Life found out if they might run into a copyright problem and, most importantly, who will help solve it.

Over the past two weeks, the entire cultural and entertainment industry has gone online. The largest world theaters, museums, lecture halls announced that they will broadcast performances, exhibitions and most of the content on websites and various platforms. This initiative was supported by almost all the global giants: the Vienna Opera and the American Metropolitan Opera conduct free broadcasts during the quarantine period; The Louvre Museum and the Uffizi Florentine Gallery uncovered their digitized archives; The British Museum, an online collection of more than 3.5 million exhibits, provides virtual tours of all the exhibits on the official YouTube channel. Russian culture is not far behind: the Hermitage took a 5-hour tour on iPhone, the Tretyakov Gallery and Pushkin Museum broadcast lectures and exhibitions on websites; The Bolshoi, Taganka Theater, Stanislavsky Electrotheatre and others announced a schedule of online broadcasts of performances and promised to transfer the work of their staff to the new format as much as possible.

This initiative cannot but please the audience – even without taking into account the epidemic factor, we have somehow been smoothly moving into the online consumption of content for several years now. And now, when a visit to the theater has become impossible, this transformation is inevitable. But the question is, if this all is legal? Could, for example, any Moscow theater of its own volition transfer its performances to digital?

It turned out that this issue had already been resolved: the Theater Agent company, collecting for Russian Authors’ Society (RAO) fees for using the results of intellectual activity in performances, refused to charge royalties from theaters for online broadcasts for the period of the coronavirus pandemic in Russia. Thus, theaters will be able to freely broadcast their performances on the Web, without fear of fines or prosecution.

As representatives of the company told Forbes Life, “a performance is, in fact, a complex, composite work that combines the copyright of a scriptwriter and translator, director, artists who created the scenery, costumes and lighting of the stage, as well as the choreographer, set designer and composer and other specialists. Therefore, there are a lot of copyright holders, and if in ordinary circumstances none of them should remain without remuneration due to him/her by law, then in the unforeseen critical situation in which we all find ourselves at present, it is much more difficult to comply with the interests of all authors. However, theatrical public figures, whose interests in Russia are protected by Theater Agent company, went towards the audience.”

Theater Agent company addressed the Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova with an open letter: “When visiting theaters, cinemas, concerts and other spectacular events is unavailable, the only way to support fellow citizens in the conditions of forced self isolation and restrictions is to enable viewing of performances in the format of broadcasts by the global Internet.” The open letter was signed by the public figure Yuri Polyakov; production designer Viktor Shilkrot; writer, screenwriter and actor Mikhail Litvin; Soviet and Russian composer Alexei Shelygin; artistic director and chief conductor of Tchaikovsky Grand Symphony Orchestra Pyotr Fedoseyev; first chief director of Yaroslavsky Theater for Young Spectators Sergey Rozov; and soloist of the Chamber Stage named after B. A. Pokrovsky of Bolshoi Theater of Russia Alexander Kolesnikov.

“Based on the fact that theaters refused to sell the right to view performances and did not set themselves the goal of deriving benefits from the current situation in other ways, the vast majority of the founding authors, clients and partners of Theater Agent expressed their willingness to provide for the period of restrictions imposed on theaters the respective rights to use the works to do online broadcasts and refused to receive royalties for such use for the same period,”- commented Victoria Sladkovskaya, CEO. She also added that Theater Agent company traditionally acts as a mediator between the authors and organizers of theatrical and entertainment events and is ready to provide theaters with all possible assistance in reaching agreements with the authors and obtaining theaters all the necessary permissions and approvals, including at the end of the recovery period from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.