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Infringement suit sticks for “Hairspray” performances and others

Music Theatre International, known as MTI, is a copyright licensing company that specializes in musical theater. According to its website, MTI licenses official scripts, music and other resources to theaters nationally and globally.

In 2018, MTI sued Theaterpalooza Community Theater Productions, Inc., a youth theater that puts on musical performances in Virginia and Maryland, and Theaterpalooza’s owner, alleging that it had staged well known musicals without obtaining required copyright licenses from MTI, according to Playbill. Reportedly, before filing suit, MTI had repeatedly asked Theaterpalooza to pay royalties owed and purchase appropriate licenses.

Court finds infringement

On January 3, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia released an opinion in which the judge found that Theaterpalooza knowingly and willfully infringed on MTI’s copyrights in three musicals: “Annie,” Mama Mia!” and “Hairspray,” findings he adopted from the Report and Recommendation of a U.S. Magistrate Judge.

The judge ordered the defendants to pay $450,000 in statutory damages ($150,000 for each violation) and about $1,500 for costs.

The court also entered a permanent injunction (order) that Theaterpalooza not infringe on MTI’s copyrights. Specifically, the court agreed with the Magistrate Judge that the factors required by the U.S. Supreme Court for a permanent injunction were satisfied:

  • MTI had suffered an “irreparable injury.”
  • Money damages were inadequate.
  • A “balance of hardships” favored the injunction.
  • The injunction was in the public interest.

MTI Enter., Inc., v. Theaterpalooza Cmty Theater Prod., Inc. is available on Westlaw at 2019 WL 99267.