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Performing Rights and Licensing

Performing Rights Soceity

Sept 2012

PERFORMING RIGHTS AND LICENSING

Regarding use of downloads, backing tracks etc.  All of this comes under the same heading as any music used in a show, from whatever source, and is covered by application to The Performing Rights Society, if not part of a licensed production.   The two fact sheets on performance regulations do seem to cover the situation.   There has also been a rumour that songs cannot be used if they are on the list of shows not released or withdrawn. You can perform almost all songs from the shows under a PRS licence, as long as you abide by the regulations on excerpts from musicals. There are, however, some songs that you cannot perform under any circumstances e.g. those from Disney films (except Snow White, Dumbo and Pinocchio), although this may change from time to time. Basically, the society should check with the rightsholder for the relevant musical.

With regard to liability, if the Society is unincorporated, as most are, then any liability is spread across the membership.   Some bigger societies have set themselves up into a Limited Liability arrangement, to proved defence against a big production loss.  In this the members agree to pay from £1 to £5 if the company winds up.   It is run by a Board, elected by the membership, and has to follow Company Law in terms of accounting, meetings etc.  The members of the Board can be held personally accountable for debts if it can shown that they acted imprudently, and so some sort of insurance on their behalf is wise.  There is a good Fact sheet on this in the NODA members Area called Incorporation and it is worth a look.

Performance Regulations

Jonathan Simon of the Really Useful Group and a Member of the P.R.S. has produced the following, which clearly states what is within and outside the law when staging a Concert. Please take careful note.

ALMOST EVERY SONG, MUSICAL OR PLAY WHICH IS PERFORMED IN PUBLIC IS SUBJECT TO THE PAYMENT OF ROYALTIES - AND THIS INCLUDES EXCERPTS

The only exceptions are works which are no longer in copyright because the period of protection has expired. This occurs at the end of a 70 year, period after the death of the composer and/or author (for example, the works of Gilbert and Sullivan which entered the public domain in 1960). If adapted scripts, updated libretti and/or musical arrangements by a living composer (or one whose death occurred less than 70 years ago) are publicly performed, then such works are protected and therefore subject to the payment of royalties.

1. DRAMATIC WORKS No public performance or public reading of a protected play or musical play may be given either in its entirety or in the form of excerpts without a licence to perform it having been obtained in advance from the copyright owner.

2. EXCERPTS FROM MUSICALS It is normally permissible to perform excerpts from musical plays with a licence from the Performing Right Society Limited (the PRS) provided that:

i. The excerpt does not exceed 25 minutes duration;

ii. it is not a complete act of the musical play;

iii. it does not constitute a 'potted version' of the musical play;

iv. it is performed without any change to either music or lyrics (see vi below);

v. it is performed using only published or authorised musical arrangements (see vi, below);

vi. there is no use made of any form of scenery, costume, choreography, staging, character representation or special lighting which gives a visual impression or other portrayal of the writer’s original conception of the work from which the excerpt is taken.

In many cases theatres, halls and other venues may have a 'blanket' licence from the PRS (a licence to perform all its repertoire). This should be ascertained before hand and in the absence of such a licence, application should be made to the PRS at the address below.

Any performance which does not fall within the above provisions, cannot be subject to a PRS licence, and application must therefore be made before the event to the copyright owner.

3. UN-STAGED CONCERTS

It must be understood that royalties are payable to the PRS on all copyright music perfumed in a concert format. As a general rule, such performances cannot be given using costume, staging or choreography, although only minimal movement is customarily permitted (see 6, below).

4. STAGED CONCERTS AND REVUES

If the intention is to stage (that is to say with costume, and/or scenery and/or movement) a revue or compilation show, then if any of the content originates in a musical play, permission (which may or may not necessarily be forthcoming!) must be sought in advance from the copyright owner. If the song(s) or music concerned do not emanate from a musical play, then it is probable that their performance could be covered by a PRS licence. This should be checked in advance with the PRS.

Permission to perform revue sketches must be obtained in advance from the authors' agents who, if the use is approved, will issue licences upon payment of appropriate fees.

5. CHARITY OR 'FREE' PERFORMANCES

It should be remembered that even a public performance for which no admission is charged, or which is for a charitable cause, still requires a licence.

6. PHOTOCOPYING, ARRANGEMENTS AND ADAPTATIONS

The making of photocopies is restricted under copyright law. There are 'fair use' provisions although it is unlikely that they would apply in the case of public performance.

If copies of music or songs are required for rehearsal or performance purposes and they are unavailable either for purchase or rental, then permission to copy must be sought from the music publisher named on the music, not the owner of the stage rights nor the PRS. 

If permission to copy is granted, then this may be conditional upon payment of a reproduction fee and/or an undertaking to deliver all copies made to the publisher after use. 

The making of musical arrangements of copyright works, changing the melody or words, or adding new words, and choreography, all arguably constitute an adaptation and as such should be strenuously avoided.

7. AUDIO OR VIDEO RECORDING 

In certain circumstances, a licence to make a sound recording may be obtained upon application from the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society Limited (''MCPS'' * see below). However, the making of video recordings are prohibited almost without exception. Unlawful video recordings are viewed by copyright owners as a very serious breach of their rights and almost certainly actionable.

IF IN DOUBT ABOUT ANYTHING * ASK! *

Performing Rights Society (PRS)

29/33 Berners Street,
London
W1A 4AA

Tel: 020 7580 5544
fax: 020 7306 4814
MCPS,

Elgar House
41 Streatham High Road,
London
SW16 1ER

Tel: 020 8769 4400

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