Producers streaming shows online are being urged to ensure a proportion of any income generated is given to the makers of the work.
Union Equity, which is behind the plea, has also asked theatremakers to get in contact if they believe that their consent has not been sought for an online broadcast of a show – whether it is free or making money.
While the union has confirmed this is not a frequent issue, the advice comes as theatres are increasingly broadcasting recordings of past shows online due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
A tweet from the Directors and Designers Committee said: "Firstly, at a time when all other work for members has dried up, it’s entirely fair to expect theatres to pay for the use of your ideas.
"Electing to stream work for free is a choice on their behalf, it is not an obligation."
It added: "It’s understandable that you may not wish to withhold consent for fear of being overlooked for work in the future or being seen as a troublemaker and not a team player.
"However, this is why it is difficult to establish where consent has been truly freely given."
The committee advised theatremakers who do not wish to give consent to ensure the the matter is dealt with by their agent if possible, discuss the issue with other members of the production team, voice their views to the producer and, if negotiations break down, to approach the union for help.
It added: "For the avoidance of doubt, we are speaking hypothetically here. We aren’t saying that this is frequently occurring across the industry. This information is purely for the benefit of our members should the situation arise."
THREAD: On being asked to waive royalties to allow for your work to be streamed for free.— Equity Directors and Designers Committee (@EquityDandD) April 20, 2020
A statement from Equity head of live performance Hilary Hadley said it was correct that there are clauses in both UK Theatre and SOLT agreements for directors, designers and choreographers, ensuring that there should be an agreement with creative teams where commercial exploitation of a production via broadcast takes place.
"Even when there is no commercial exploitation, but any exploitation over and above a recording for archive, such as free streaming on websites or social media channels where no paywall is in operation, it is clear that this can only be done if the consent of all the rights holders has been given. Additionally consent must be given by the performers and stage management,” she said.
Hadley said that any Equity member who believed that their consent had not been sought for the broadcast of their work should contact the union for advice.
She added: "As the Covid-19 crisis deepens, many subsidised producers will be attempting to retain audience loyalty and keep their productions alive and some have, or will be, attempting to stream previously recorded productions for free.
"Where any income to a theatre is being generated by this, via a donation button or call to donate, then Equity will discuss with the producer how a portion of this can be allocated to those whose work is being streamed."