Plays and musicals are copyrighted so school drama teachers must be aware of the procedure for performing a working publicly. This will prevent any legal penalties for infringement.
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Copyright protection provides authors or artists exclusive control over use, production and performance of their works.
When a school plan's to perform a copyrighted work, it must contact a publishing clearinghouse like Samuel French or Baker's. (References 2 and 3) Licensing fees, or royalties, are determined based on theatre capacity, number of performances and ticket price. (Reference 2) A royalty fee is also charged based on the number of scripts ordered. (Reference 3)
Making Changes or Recording Performances
Once you have the rights to a play or musical, you must contact the publishing house before making any changes to dialogue or music, and if you plan to record performances. (Reference 3) Requests must be in writing and must be approved by the publishing house prior to performances. (Reference 3)
Ramifications for Infringement
There are fines in place for violation, ranging from £325 to £65,000. Violations are as minor as making unapproved changes to dialogue and as drastic as unauthorised use of a copyrighted work. (Reference 1) Always take care when putting on a school drama or musical production.
If your school cannot afford to purchase the rights to a copyrighted work, generally, works written more than 75 years ago become public domain. These works can be performed without paying licensing fees. (Reference 1) However, be sure to check before using a work to prevent any possible infringement fines.
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