Costume Designer Claims Riverdance Needs To Pay A Royalty For Every Performance

from the riverdance! dept

In the latest sign of bizarre and ridiculous lawsuits brought about by the belief that every concept and idea must be owned and licensed, Richard alerts us to the news that the folks behind the infamous Riverdance show are being sued by the costume designer who created outfits for the show in the mid-1990s. While the original agreement had the show paying royalties to the clothing designer to the tune of 60 euros per performance, that deal ran out in 2001. Now, the designer, Jen Kelly complains that Riverdance continues to "use and modify his designs without licence or payment." Frankly, it seems pretty silly to think that a stage show should need to pay the clothing designer for every performance and that it would be some sort of violation of that designer's rights to "modify" the designs. Next, will designers start demanding that people pay a royalty fee every time they wear the clothes outside the home? After all, isn't that a "public performance"?


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  1.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 6:12am

    Walking billboard

    Actually, I am going to start sending bills to the clothing designers for acting as a walking billboard for their styles. With the logos and names splashed all over clothing I think it is only fair that I get compensated for displaying their brand. Besides, who doesn't want to dress like John Doe?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 6:13am

    Are they his designs

    If they are modifying the costumes, are they really his designs any more?

     

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  3.  
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    John Doe, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 6:26am

    Re: Are they his designs

    The better question is why would they pay a license for a costume? Why not just pay for the initial costume design and be done with it.

    But since they didn't go that way, what does the contract say? It should be there in black and white so I am guessing the courts will have no trouble deciding if any money is owed.

     

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  4.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re: Are they his designs

    "Why not just pay for the initial costume design and be done with it."

    Because the producers wanted to save on their upfront costs. Putting on such a show is expensive. If the show was a flop, they'd only have to pay out a little bit for the costumes. But even if it did well, which it did, they'd only have to pay a little bit for each use.

     

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  5.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:24am

    Uh?

    "news that the folks behind the infamous Riverdance show"

    Quick question, sorry if this is off topic but maybe I'm missing some kind of context.

    Why is Riverdance INfamous instead of just famous? Did Michael Flatley do something evil? Does Riverdance involve puppy kicking and raporism?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:28am

    Re: Uh?

    He did Lord of the Dance. Isn't that insidious enough?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:28am

    man....

    i would HATE to think what the person who first thought of shirt and pants think of this....

    after all, aren't ALL clothing "modified" from first shirt or pants?

     

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  8.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:34am

    Re: Re: Uh?

    That's exactly what I was going to say.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:46am

    Actually, it a bit of a problem area here:

    Unless the costumes were designed on a "work for hire" or by an employee, in theory they aren't owned by the show. That there was an existing agreement in place (until 2001) shows that the concept of "pay for use" or a rental / commission was in fact in place already.

    The only downside for the designer is that they apparently waited 8 years to press the issue. But that is a different issue.

     

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  10.  
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    Scote, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:47am

    Royalties for costumes make as much sense as paying royalties for photographs--which is to say I think both concepts are ridiculous. I customer I know paid a photographer $35,000 to create three portraits for campaign and an additional $35,000 in royalties to use them for 1 year--even though they commissioned and paid for the photographs in the first place!

    Granted, fashion designs can't be copyrighted, but this sounds like a contractual issue rather than a copyright issue. If there was a royalty contract in place it would seem that Riverdance agreed that royalties were part of the deal, so they may well owe the designer.

    OT: @Dark Helmet
    Riverdance isn't infamous, but Michael Flatly--the talented, self absorbed and egotistical dancer who left river dance and created the cheesy self-aggrandizing knockoff, Lord of the Dance--is.

     

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  11.  
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    John Doe, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:47am

    Re:

    Actually, it was a fig leaf so they owe the fig tree royalties.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:59am

    If the agreement was to lease the costumes until 2001, I feel the artist is completely within his rights to seek compensation.

    It's not like they were buying the clothes from the gap. They are creative works and are the intellectual property of the designer.

    At this point they are 'stealing' the designs and modifying them for their own use unless the agreement they signed says otherwise after 2001.

    I hate to play devils advocate, but being a designer who is constantly dealing with people stealing intellectual property and using it outside of the scope of the initial project, I tend to side with my fellow creatives.

     

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  13.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Uh?

    Well, yeah, Lord of the Dance blows, no doubt. But just because here we agree that Michael Flatley is two hairs away from being a baboon doesn't mean that Riverdance is "illfamed; seen widely unfavorably" as the definition suggests.

    Eh, no big deal.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Uh?

    Haven't seen the Lord of the Dance, but what exactly is wrong with it?

     

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  15.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Uh?

    "Haven't seen the Lord of the Dance, but what exactly is wrong with it?"

    It's a horrible, horrible show that borders on the sort of mindnumbingly insipid musical acts that ought to be used in torturing prisoners and that's about it. I can't seem to find anyone in my life that actually LIKED that show, but plenty of people that went to it because it was cool to say you had for a while.

    Beyond that, any indication that Irish people can in any way dance in a choreographed way after they are about 12 years old is just plain wrong.

    After all, we're all far too hammered and busy punching people to go around and do that kind of "dancing"....

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:50am

    Re:

    You cannot copyright fashion. That's why clothing knockoffs are legal as long as you don't claim they are the real thing. Mike has written about this many, many times.

    The reason question is whether or not the costumes were owned by the production company or not. I suspect they were. Otherwise they should have returned them in 2001.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:52am

    Re: Uh?

    He was using The Three Amigos definition:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIGtHhAfe8w

     

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  18.  
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    BD White (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:55am

    Ignorant Article...Ignorant opinions

    It is obvious to me as someone who works in the Theater industry that the authors are ignorant of how theater works and the people making comments are too. Let me Help you all here.

    The Design side of the theater industry is very competitive. Many producers are unscrupulous. You need to remember that on the commercial level such as Broadway and the West End and the associated tours this is not art it is big business. Designers struggle away throughout their entire careers working for peanuts in hopes of landing a "Riverdance" or "Cats" scale show. When I say peanuts read that as below minimum wage.

    Design contracts are structured in such a way so that the designs are the possession of the designer and productions commission the designs and pay a fee to the designer and to have the designs built. They are subject to approval from the producers, but all changes must be approved by the designer. The designers union has negotiated royalties with producers for use of the designs on a specific production or tour. When those contracts expire, the producers must either extend the contract or redesign. It is always cheaper (on a union contracted production) to extend the contract rather than have new sets or costumes built.

    I have no doubt that the designer in question has been fighting this battle for years with these producers, and the fact that it is getting to court only now is understandable.

    As for the comparison to fashion designers...Costume designers are way more talented than fashion designers, and the unique requirements of live performances, 8 or more times a week, demand that they make unique one of a kind clothes that will endure the stresses of live performance. They don't smear their names over every piece of clothing they make, can you name three costume designers?

    The history of this kind of abuse goes back over 100 years. I have worked in the industry for 20 years. I hope She wins her case.

    For the record I hate Riverdance and King of the Dance and am no fan of Mr. Flatley.

     

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  19.  
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    tracker1 (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 9:07am

    Siding with the designer here...

    I'm really against how copyrights, patents, and trademarks are abused. But the original contract terms clearly stated a payment amount per use. Once said contract was up, they should have negotiated a new contract, or stopped using the clothing.

    Either pay up front, with transfer of any and all rights, or deal with the consequences. These are the consequences.

     

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  20.  
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    Cdaragorn, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 9:21am

    Ignorant person

    Ah, yes, the old argument of "I made it, so I should get paid for it ad infinitum". Just because ppl have been able to do this for so long in any industry doesn't make it right.

    Copyright laws clearly explain that, unless otherwise stated in some contract, if I pay an artist to make something, I own the copyright. Of course, whining, selfish artists have gotten around this by putting other terms into the contract. Obviously if this persons contract had such stipulations they are LEGALLY correct in trying to get the contracted returns from the use of their designs. This article isn't arguing against that.

    The point is that it's an incredibly greedy, selfish, ridiculous thing to think that it's ok to require someone to pay you for work done once for the rest of your life, your childrens, and ad infinitum, as so many artists like to believe they are entitled to these days.

     

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  21.  
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    The Buzz Saw (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 9:53am

    Re: Ignorant Article...Ignorant opinions

    BD White, your comment overlooks one serious detail: no one in theater (or any industry) *deserves* to be paid. There is no law of nature stating that a given field has to be profitable. You tug at people's heartstrings by talking about how brutally underpaid designers are. It is not my job to ensure that you can make a living doing costume design.

    This is not "abuse". This is business. If costume designers are as important as you say they are, fine. They will be paid the right amount as the need for costume designers increases. However, if there are enough alternatives, the payments will only go down (as they always do in competitive markets).

    Being paid eternally for work done once is stupid. Build the costumes. Sell the costumes. Work is done. Why am I not paid for all the benefit my company extracts from the work I do each day? I get paid for my hours, but the company benefits off my work forever. WHAT A RIPOFF!

     

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  22.  
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    stevestephen (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 9:54am

    Re: Walking billboard

    in the same vein: there is nothing I despise more than truck manufacturers stamping their name into the tailgate and forcing me to advertise for them. I am owed royalties too!!!

     

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  23.  
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    stevestephen (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Re: Are they his designs

    If a reasonable person would recognize them as based on the original work - yes.

     

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  24.  
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    Dull Blade, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re: Ignorant Article...Ignorant opinions

    The Buzz Saw: Thank you for labeling your own reply as: "Ignorant opinions;" I couldn't have labeled it better myself. You get what you deserve and if you signed on as an 8-to-5'er the more power to you. There is an entire world out there that requires contracts, negotiations, laws and enforcement to protect individuals and business.

    Would your ideal model for business have manufacturers (say Ford or Chevy) hire design and production staff at sub-minimum wage...knocking out products for the quick buck and disappearing without ever supporting it or making replacements and improvements? Knowing the product was produced by someone making your approved sub-minimum wage, and not caring what schlock they are dumping into the market, would you buy it? I could see your employees insisting on a contract or starting a union.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    >>I hate to play devils advocate, but being a designer who is constantly dealing with people stealing intellectual property and using it outside of the scope of the initial project, I tend to side with my fellow creatives.

    I can appreciate your concern, but think about it another way. How often are you inspired by the work of another designer? How often do you elements that have already appeared in the work of other artists? How would you feel if every time you came up with a new design you had to worry about who was going to claim IP rights to some portion of your new work. Given the current state of IP, this could happen even if your design was in fact 100% original; if your design is successful someone (and possibly a lot of someones) would decide that it was more profitable to sue you rather than produce their own work.

    As a designer, you would probably end up spending very little time designing. You would spend your time and money documenting every scrap of what you did to prove it was original, defending yourself in court, and suing other people for copying your design. Wouldn't it make more sense to have an environment where artists are inspired by the work of other artists, and let all of the artists do what they do best?

     

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  26.  
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    ron, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    I can't believe how so many are so quick to judge and stick it to the contractor who DID have a solid contract.

    Believe it or not, there are a lot of businesses who hire staff on a contract basis, especially in this economy. I lost my job and work as a productivity consultant for the company that fired me. I develop processes for them. They like and agree to contracts where I am paid upfront but also get paid fees for use as long as they follow my process.

    It is clearly defined in our contract and they agree to it. So most all of you are stating they they should be able to stop contracted payments to me when ever they decide they feel like it??? WTF!!!

     

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  27.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Uh?

    "doesn't mean that Riverdance is "illfamed"

    I think the concept you're missing is called irony. It's sometimes used as a form of humor, another concept you don't seem to grasp.

     

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  28.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 11:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Uh?

    Sssssssss! Buuuurrrrnnn!

     

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  29.  
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    Cdaragorn, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Ignorant Article...Ignorant opinions

    Wow, somehow you took a discussion about having a legitimate, honest agreement of payment to artists and tagged that as always being minimum wage and the resultant art as always being schlock? Perhaps we should take you back to basic economics for a minute?

    The only way artists pay would reach a level as low as minimum wage is if the number of artists trying to make a living off of nothing but their art became far greater than the amount of art needed. If that's the case, then artists need to quit whining and accept the same thing the rest of us need to: go get a different job.

    Quit throwing stupid scenarios around that aren't even close to reality. No one is implying that artists should have to work for pathetic wages, and the insinuation that they will make crap is quite frankly a major insult to artists everywhere. It's just as insulting to them as your claim that artists should be paid for their one time creation for the rest of their lives. Anyone who even hints that they "deserve" to be that lazy deserves to be dead broke.

     

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  30.  
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    Art OhEaghra (profile), Nov 11th, 2009 @ 1:31am

    Legal row over Riverdance costumes settled. (New One likely to Begin on behalf of the Original Designer).

    Tuesday, 10 November 2009 22:22

    A High Court action in Dublin Ireland over costumes used in the Riverdance show has been settled after fashion designer Jen Kelly withdrew claims that his designs had been used without his consent.

    The designer had sued the Riverdance production companies owned by Moya Doherty and John McColgan and claimed that he had been 'airbrushed out of the history' of the world famous dance show.

    He was seeking more than €800,000 in damages for breach of contract, claiming he had not been given the proper credit for his work.

    However, the High Court was told that a compromise had been reached and the action could be struck out.

    Lawyers for Mr Kelly said he acknowledged that his costume designs or copies were not used for any live performance after the end of 2001.

    Afterwards producer Moya Doherty said no financial settlement whatsoever was involved. She said she was delighted that the allegations had been withdrawn and said they could now get back to the business of real theatre.

    The designer Jen Kelly has said there was a financial settlement in today's case.

    It followed the comment made by Ms Doherty in which she said there was 'absolutely no settlement' when asked if there was a financial agreement.

    Mr Kelly said the terms were to be confidential and he had been honouring its terms by not disclosing details outside court today.

    However, he said following Ms Doherty's comments he would now confirm that there was in fact a financial settlement.

    Jen Kelly said he was delighted to be getting back to what he was good at - designing clothes.

    Joan Bergin, the award winning designer who succeeded Mr Kelly as a costume designer on the show, said she was relieved for every costume designer in theatre who would now not have to be 'looking over their shoulder'.

    At the opening of the case last week Abhann Productions and Tyrone Productions of Mary Street Little in Dublin had denied the claims.

    The High Court was told that an agreement reached nine years ago included a payment of £30,000 in settlement of all disputes between the parties.

    The court heard that after its success at the Eurovision Song Contest, Jen Kelly agreed in 1994 to design costumes for Riverdance the show.

    His lawyers said he used his own knowledge of Irish dancing to create costumes which became the 'iconic' look associated with Riverdance.

    As the show's popularity expanded an agreement was struck in 1996 whereby he was to receive royalties of £60 per performance.

    But difficulties arose and in 1998 he was informed that another designer Joan Bergin would be used for the costumes in a new Riverdance show on Broadway in New York.

    In 1999 a second agreement was reached that his costumes would be used until the end of 2001.

    A third agreement the following year was reached after he complained he was not receiving credit for his work. In that agreement he received £30,000.

    However, he claimed that since then his costumes were used in live performances as well as in promotional material for the show without his consent.

    He also claimed that his designs had been tampered with and that costumes used in promotional material implied to the public that they were designed by someone else.

    Addendum to the above:

    Quote from Joan Bergin:-

    "Joan Bergin, the award winning designer who succeeded Mr Kelly as a costume designer on the show, said she was relieved for every costume designer in theatre who would now not have to be 'looking over their shoulder'"

    Well if Joan is so righteous, could she tell us all what her remuneration from the Riverdance Show over all these years has been. Also does she believe that the actual original designer of the Riverdance costumes should be recognised and have her copyright and intellectual property rights to the Riverdance costumes recognised.

    Does Joan agree that the original costume designer, who has actually been put through a living hell in all of this be adequately compensated?

    Regards,

    Art.
    Wed, 11 Nov 2009 09:31:2 GMT Standard Time Wk 46
    END

     

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  31.  
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    Dull Blade, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 7:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ignorant Article...Ignorant opinions

    Ahhh Chad, you disappoint me. You miss the point entirely. Why are you hung up on artists and designers? The discussion is about contracts.

     

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  32.  
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    Thinking out load, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 7:41pm

    Who can pay the Rent!!!!

    Think of it this way. The producers are going to be paid for the life of a show.
    So said contract is up and the show runs for another 15 years. People at the top are already getting top dollar. What then happens to the section of profit no longer paid out to a designer? Who gets that? Why is anyone cut out of the harvest if they sowed/sewed seeds for the show. Lets say the crop isn't doing well but it's doing..... portions should still be shared. We all have to eat.

    That is a simple human contract

     

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  33.  
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    Thinking out load, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 7:45pm

    Who can pay the Rent!!!!

    Think of it this way. The producers are going to be paid for the life of a show.
    So said contract is up and the show runs for another 15 years. People at the top are already getting top dollar. What then happens to the section of profit no longer paid out to a designer? Who gets that? Why is anyone cut out of the harvest if they sowed/sewed seeds for the show. Lets say the crop isn't doing well but it's doing..... portions should still be shared. We all have to eat.

    That is a simple human contract

     

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