<CENTER> <img src="http://www.criticaldance.com/images/Graham-Leibovitz.jpg" alt="" /> <big>REJOICE</BIG>
Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum has found in favour of the Martha Graham Center in this landmark case. Here is the key extract:
….the Martha Graham Center owns the overwhelming majority of Martha Graham's dances: the Center (Defendant) owns fifty-four works; 10 works are in the public domain; 5 works are owned by commissioning entities; and the Plaintiff (Mr. Protas) has been declared owner of one dance.
It would not be surprising to me if there was an appeal, but for the present, this is a time for rejoicing that the Graham legacy is in safe hands.
Here is the full Press Release from our friends at the Center. Other media outlets feel free to copy: Martha Graham
Center of Contemporary Dance
August 23, 2002 (New York, NY)— The Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance is pleased to announce that a Court decision has been issued today establishing the ownership of the choreography created by Martha Graham and related sets and costumes. The Honorable Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum of the Southern District of New York issued a decision confirming that the Martha Graham Center owns the overwhelming majority of Martha Graham's dances: the Center (Defendant) owns fifty-four works; 10 works are in the public domain; 5 works are owned by commissioning entities; and the Plaintiff (Mr. Protas) has been declared owner of one dance.
The 110-page decision confirms that Martha Graham assigned the majority of her choreographic works to the Center and that the bulk of those remaining were created by Martha Graham as an employee of the Center which she herself created.
While the Board of Trustees of the Center is pleased with this decision, it is important to note that dance companies can and do make arrangements with choreographers establishing that ownership of the dance(s) created by the choreographer resides with the choreographer. George Balanchine and other choreographers made such arrangements. Martha Graham chose not to.
Five of the dances were commissioned by third parties in or prior to the 1950s. As to those commissioned-dances the Court indicated that the third parties may have some rights. The decision details the extensive documentary evidence and testimony of more than a dozen witnesses supporting the Center's ownership. Indeed The Court found that Mr. Protas' own lawyer had elicited testimony from a former Board member confirming the Center's ownership.
The Court also found, as argued by the Center, that ten of the 70 dances at issue have now entered the public domain in the United States (the sets and costumes relating to these works were found to be owned by the Center). The Martha Graham Center is very pleased that the ten dances found to be in the public domain will be available to the public for study and performance.
The decision also recognized that Martha Graham either assigned all of her theatrical properties (including sets and costumes) to the Center or that the Center otherwise paid for those sets and costumes.
The Court also found that Ronald Protas had a technical "renewal right to the copyright" of a single dance. The Court found, however, that the Center owns the set for that dance.
The Court stated that "After listening to [Mr. Protas] evasive and inconsistent testimony and observing his demeanor" it found that he was not a credible witness. The Court also found that Mr. Protas "profited improperly at the defendants' expense and did not act 'with an eye single to the interests' of the defendants to whom he owed a fiduciary duty." Finally, the Court stated that in Mr. Protas' "desire to undermine the Center's ownership of the works, sets and costumes, Protas did not accurately inform the Board of the underlying facts."
The Court awarded the Center more than $240,000 for Mr. Protas' improper licensing of works actually owned by the Center and for selling the Center's property to the Library of Congress.
Francis Mason, Chairman of the Board of the Martha Graham Center stated: "We rejoice in Judge Cedarbaum's decision confirming our ownership or the public's ownership of the choreography created by Martha Graham as well as that the Center owns all sets and costumes. This decision is particularly timely in light of our impending move back to Martha and the School's old premises that have now been completely renovated. We have an exciting two-week season commencing at the Joyce Theatre on January 21, 2003 and could not be happier to put this very difficult chapter behind us."
A copy of the decision can be found at http://home.earthlink.net/~gsmltd/default.htm
<small>[ 08-23-2002, 20:20: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>