I make most of my income w


I make most of my income working with professional theatre and educational theatre. I know most people probably know how schools work these things, but it’s worth repeating (this is UK info, but as most publishers are based in the UK and the US – the basics are the same)

If the school does it properly, they will hire in the scripts, and sign an agreement with the copyright holder that allows them to rehearse it and perform it. Sometimes the fees are low, other times, amazingly expensive. There is always a clause that states no video or audio recording is allowed. It also usually stipulates that photocopying is also banned. Copies hired (rarely bought) must be marked in pencil, and erased afterwards. Any defaced copies with pen, not pencil are charged at fearful prices. Schools know that the kids will use pen, so most unofficially photocopy them and say nothing. In addition, if it’s a musical or a play with music, then the performance rights for the music are also included in the deal. Many schools HAVE to video record the show, as the kids grades come from their performance, and evidence is required. So they record it illegally, and stick it in a store and forget it.The rights holders know this happens, but are content to turn a blind eye. However, any selling of the product, even to parents, is a serious breach of the law and if they were found out, consequences could be serious.

In my professional capacity, I record what we call archive recordings of the shows – including the music. This is written int the artistes contracts and the professional musicians also have a clause that permits this recording. It must not be used commercially – if it was, everyone would be entitled to extra performance fees – which can be horrendous. So I record the shows and treat the material very carefully, controlling who has access. Apart from the money – copyright contravention can have serious implications next time you wish to do something.

Shakespeare, is a little different. Copyright exists here in the UK some seventy years after the death of the copyright holder. Now, Shakespeare has been dead far longer than this. However, most copies have perhaps included a few edits (especially for school use), and may contain explanations of the words used, to allow people to understand the original meaning. These comments may well be still in copyright, but the original words are not. So, if the original Shakespeare is re-typed, using only his words, anyone can do what they like.

Copyright is amazingly complex, and exact time periods of protection change from country to country. What happens unofficially is that the big copyright organisations such as Warner Chappel and Weinbergers turn a blind eye to educational mis-use, as long as they are not generating revenue.

It’s quite possible to get licenses for use of copyright material for many things at modest cost – but not all. I got rights for a college production of a professional touring music show by simply asking the writer. he was amazed we wantd to try it. He even came to see it which was really nice. Clearing copyright, however, was truly grim, and very expensive. I almost got permission from Disney US to stage a show here in the UK that has never been done here professionally- but the restrictions were too great. No publicity, no photographs let alone video or audio recording – and they meant it. We didn’t take them up on this one.

Sorry for the long-windedness.

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