Legal Battle Erupts Over Classic Sitcom, With Rights Holder Threatening Off-Broadway Show

Jul 18, 2012  •  Post A Comment

Attorneys for the copyright owner of a classic sitcom have sent a cease-and-desist letter to an off-Broadway production, saying the stage show borrows too many elements from the TV series, The New York Times reports.

The stage production, “3C,” has a lot in common with the late-1970s and early-1980s ABC sitcom “Three’s Company,” including the premise of a man who pretends to be gay to live with two women, the report notes.

"3C" found itself targeted at a time when “Three’s Company” is "up for renewal soon with TV Land," said Donald Taffner Jr., owner of DLT Entertainment, which owns the copyright.

He added, "[W]e’re playing around with the idea of doing a theatrical version of ‘Three’s Company’ ourselves, so we don’t want anything out there that might cause harm,” according to the story.

The playwright, David Adjmi, has agreed to the demands of DLT, which in effect means his play won’t be revived after its run ended on Saturday, according to the story. One of his reasons for doing so was money — "I can’t afford a fancy lawyer," Adjmi said.

One of the issues facing Adjmi was whether the play was enough of a parody to earn protection under First Amendment exceptions to copyright law. Under the legal doctrine of fair use, artists are allowed to lampoon or critique original material, the piece notes.

"Three’s Company" starred John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers as roommates.

One Comment

  1. Ironic that the “Three’s Company” folks are asserting their copyright claims, since their series was based an a British series, “Man About the House.”
    My hunch is he could get rights cheaper from the BBC than from American television…

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