Copyright and licensing
Whatever you are performing, the chances are that there will be a copyright owner involved. A copyright owner might be:
- the author and publisher of a play you are performing
- the translator of a play
- the composer and lyricist of songs or music you perform or play as recordings
- the arranger or orchestrator
- the creator of any artwork you use in your publicity, or even in your set
- the company that owns recordings of music you play (the recording can still be in copyright even if the composer died a long time ago)
- the owner of the source for an adaptation you do yourself
If you use their material in your event, then you will need to have the copyright owner’s permission, assuming they are not someone you know personally and can approach directly for permission.
Some copyright myths:
- "There's no copyright if it's old material" (not true – copyright lasts for 70 years starting from the death of the last surviving author)
- "Classical music recordings don't have copyright on them" (not true – recordings remain in copyright 50 years from the date of release, so a 1980s recording of Tchaikovsky is still in copyright, even though the music performed is not)
- "If it’s 'educational', there is no copyright" (not true – for public shows, whether educational or not, copyright still has to be observed)
- "Using less than 30 seconds of material means you don't have to pay" (not true - this is a misunderstanding of an American legal idea that doesn't apply in the UK)
There are two ways you can solve copyright issues, and you might need to use either or both:
- For plays or musicals you can usually apply to a publisher like Samuel French for a licence to perform the show. You then don’t need any further permissions.
- For music that you either perform live or where you play recordings as part of your show, you will need to fill out a PRS/PPL return. The PRS and PPL manage the payment of royalties to record companies, composers, performers etc.
If you want to take video or other recordings you would need special permission direct from the copyright owners of any material you want to record
If you have a licence from the publisher, you can deal directly with them and we will just need to see a copy of the licence
Bear in mind that copyright owners can withold permission, and you should ideally check that the work you want to perform is available to licence before committing to this contract.
If you need to fill in a PRS/PPL return, you can do so in an Excel sheet we can supply. We will charge you a percentage of your gross box office (including tickets you sell yourself) to cover your dues to the PRS. If you don’t supply us with the total revenue from tickets you sell yourself, we will estimate the amount based on all tickets sold at full price. If your event is non-ticketed or free entry, this will be a percentage of the total hire fee instead.