WGA Strikers Performing 'SNL' and '30 Rock' Live: Can They Do That?Thu Nov 15, 2007 @ 06:59PM PST
Posted by Eriq Gardner
Today brought word that the casts of "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" have found an innovative way to raise funds for the WGA strike fund: This weekend, at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York, both casts will mount stage productions of their shows.
That got us thinking: Can they do that?
The scenario sounds like a law school exam question (something on a Contracts or Copyright or Labor Law final, perhaps), so we checked in with Akin Gump labor partner and our new penpal Howard Fabrick, who says: "If they are doing skits that they previously did on 'SNL,' they are probably misappropriating the rights of 'SNL' or NBC."
According to Playbill, the first show, called "Saturday Night Live," "will feature a collection of favorite sketches." A separate show will feature the cast of "30 Rock" performing an episode of the series. Hmmm.
Fabrick says the striking scribes can create new sketches or stage skits from intellectual property they own, but they can't advertise themselves with trademarks that might violate those associated with the long-running show.
There are also potential contractual issues, he says. Namely, non-compete clauses might prevent Amy Poehler from performing her hilarious "Bronx Beat" character off-the-air. "The only restriction I can think of other than the intellectual property constraints would be something in their employment agreements with SNL which prevented them from appearing elsewhere, particularly portraying characters they established for SNL," Fabrick says.
Who knows whether NBC would try to shut the benefit performances down. But it can't please studio brass to see their own intellectual property used against them to raise money for the strike fund.MORE: WGA Strike: Is 'The Office' Blogger a Scab?