Theatersport (TM) is the term coined by Keith Johnstone for a popular form of improvisation theatre, in which two teams of actors compete against each other for the favour of the audience or the Referee. Points are given in different game rounds. The term "Theatersport" is a trademark registered in Canada. But Canada is not a member of the so called Madrider System, so the term theatre sport is freely available in all other countries of the world. The situation is different with the copyright for the form of performance. Unless it has been substantially amended, this is protected by worldwide copyright pursuant to the Bern Convention. Any royalties outside of Canada can only be claimed for the format but not for the term.
The form of the theatre sport that has become established today differs in some important respects from Johnstone's original intentions for the format; in particular, improvisational comedy is currently presented almost exclusively in improvised form. Johnstone, on the other hand, states that he originally intended a format that would include both comic and serious performances.
Theatre sport teams exist all over the world, with some other theatre makers having developed similar concepts and overlaps.
The first world championship in theatre sports in Germany took place in eleven cities and regions as part of the Federal Government's art and culture programme for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. In the years before, there were already international competitions in theatre sports, even if the term did not lead explicitly to the title. Since there is no superordinate organisation in theatre sports, there is no legitimising place for such an event. Basically, every major series of events in which several, perhaps even foreign groups take part can be designated as a championship.
An umbrella organization for theater sports was considered in Germany time and again, but repeatedly rejected due to conflicts of interest.
The license fees for Johnstone's formats are collected from the International Theatresports Institute (ITI]. Due to the ITI's very strict confidentiality policy (the exact conditions of the license including the amount of the royalties will only be announced after a confidentiality agreement has been signed) the licensing obligation within the Improtheater scene has been discredited: Many players see it as unfair exploitation. Johnstone himself takes the view that licensing is intended to prevent dilution of the formats he invented; the charges (obviously moderate) were only intended to finance the ITI staff. However, the effect seems to be rather the opposite: Deterred by the non-transparent licensing policy, many groups ignore the conditions; others circumvent licensing by listing the games under different names, such as "Impro-Match" or "Theatre Match". This is not necessary, however, as the term theatre sport is only protected in Canada, as mentioned above. If groups substantially change their theater sports format compared to Johnstone's original, the ITI can no longer claim copyright. It is then a new, artistic "work".
As part of the ITI's internal management disputes, Johnstone has already announced on several occasions that, if necessary, the formats will be declared public domain in order to put an end to the dispute. So far, however, he has not done so.
by Maitti Showhopper