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Intellectual Property

http://howlround.com/a-playwright-s-words-last-rightsthatswhatshesaid-offers-a-challenging-conversation

With whispers of sophomore year midterm paper about Edward Albee, it becomes incredibly appropriate that I came across this article. Before thatswhatshesaid was discussed in class I hadn’t heard of it, but the concept – taking the female lines from a compilation of scripts – was particularly intriguing considering the subversive nature of the intention behind the work. 

In this article, Mitchell discusses the intricacies surrounding the cease-and-desist orders presented by Samuel French as well as the liberty taken by Erin Pike in creating a piece by compiling copyrighted work. As an educator, Mitchell places value upon original work and strives to engage her  students with material in a way that honors the not only the work itself but the work of the author. In other words, Mitchell attempts to ingrain  upon her students the ethical and moral issues associated with plagiarism as well as the unalienable authority of the creator over the work. 

Conjuring up the spirit of second semester sophomore me, I can’t help but ground myself within the same argument I crafted nearly a year ago: 

“The playwright assumes full ownership and accountability for his work and it’s his prerogative as to what story he wants to tell. Although the playwright can modify and manipulate the narrative and the use of the the creative product to reflect his subjective truth and his intention, he does so at the expense of the creative liberties that productions can have. Choosing the integrity of his work over the possibilities of what others could bring to the work, he assumes that sacrifice; it’s his prerogative.”

That being said, the backlash and controversy from both Samuel French and the playwrights themselves surrounding thatswhatshesaid don’t seem entirely out of place. However as much as I believe in authority the playwright has over the creative product, I also still believe it is completely open to be questioned. thatswhatshesaid takes work that, yes, is copyrighted, and yes, contains portions of the creative product of another artist, BUT makes use of these materials in a manner that speaks to the underrepresentation of women within the theater. That is the dilemma that Mitchell captivates with her article and as hell bent and obstinate as I’d like to be about the power of the playwright in relationship to his creative product, I can’t argue against the powerful subversion Erin Pike employs. In fact, the suppression both by Samuel French and the playwrights of her original work – because I do think it is original; if anything, I believe her work is merely derivative in its employment of the aforementioned copyrighted work –  only serves to substantiate the issue Erin Pike is grappling with in thatswhatshesaid,  the suppression and lack of representation of women, which, quite frankly, is an issue I believe deserves more attention than copyright infringement.

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