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Copyright Resources, by Kevin Scott

Many thanks to PATA member Kevin Scott, who wrote this article for the Summer 1999 issue of "Teaching Theatre".

The article explores the application of copyright laws to educational theatre settings, including information on public domain and fair use. It also covers topics like reviews, free performances, and even photocopying published materials.

Having been written in the last millenium, there are, of course, some updates. Below you'll find a link to the original article, a link to a revised version, and a description of some of the changes.

Original Article

Revised Article (in process of being reposted to new web host)

ERRORS & UPDATES in the archived published article

Typo on page 2 of published article: "fair use" sidebar is on page 5, not page 9

Obsolete information on page 9, in section on "Dramatic rendition of music": at some point after 1999, the Harry Fox Agency, Inc., still a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Music Publishers Association which acts as intermediary for most member publishers in negotiating and collecting fees on mechanical and synchronization licenses, ceased handling live stage licenses: now potential "dramatic rendition" users of copyright-protected music in live stage performance must negotiate directly with the publishers who own the copyrights (if they can track them down -- for which the Harry Fox database is a helpful tool).

Incorrect information also on page 9, in section on "Dramatic rendition of music": it is stated that permission may be required from the record company to use an existing commercial recording — this is currently NOT TRUE in the United States: unlike the copyright laws of many other nations, US copyright law provides no protection for the live stage use of recorded music, and neither the record company nor the performing artist is entitled to any sort of royalty, only the publisher and perhaps the songwriter(s)/composer of the underlying composition, if it is not in the public domain.

Update on "No video recording" on page 12: Realizing how important a video record of a student performer's performance may be to parents, at least one royalty house specializing in the educational theater market ( Pioneer Drama Service, Inc.) now apparently includes a video rights clause in the contracts offered to its playwrights, so that a license to perform the play can also include the right to allow anyone to record the performance, and make as many copies of the video as they want (and producers can also license unlimited showings on local cable access). The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, being uniquely positioned to do so (having the amateur rights house and the music publisher for all of R&H's works under a single umbrella), has also jumped onto this bandwagon to a more limited extent (though the link to R&H;'s video licensing page appears to have vanished in the April 2008 launch of a majorly revamped Website) -- and MTI's licensing of Disney-based shows offers the same (again probably because of Disney's also having everything it might want to license under one roof)..

For the same reason (all the necessary rights under one roof) R&H has become a leader among the Big Four musicals houses in accommodating the growing use of synthesized accompaniment (as noted in the 3/25/07 NYTimes article, "Theater's Alive With the Sound of Laptops" by Jesse Green, first brought to the attention of the PDXBackstage Yahoo! group by Tobias Andersen)

Sidebar notes
Because of information contained in sources that came to Kevin's attention after publication of the print version of the article, the Web version of the History sidebar now contains expanded information regarding the influence exerted by the Dublin-born actor/ playwright Dion Boucicault (circa 1820-1890) on the development of dramatic copyright laws in both the U.K. and the U.S. (where he resided for several lengthy periods), as well as more regarding the history of Tams-Witmark.

For additional information please see Tom Mardikes' article "Copyright for Sound Designers" at