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  • United States copyright law in the performing arts

    United States copyright law in the performing arts


    • As with any other idea, the idea for a performing arts production is copyrighted as soon as it is created. In order for any of these works to be performed, the proper licenses must be obtained. The only exception to this rule is with the case of works already in the Public Domain. This includes, for example, the works of William Shakespeare. Whether a work is in the public domain or not depends on the date it was created. If the work is not in the public domain, a license must be obtained to perform it. In many cases, the license for a Broadway production is called an option.

      For a producer to put on a Broadway production, he or she must acquire an option, which involves paying a fee. The option is to make sure that the producer is serious about producing this show, and puts the money forth to prove it. For a typical Broadway play, a producer pays $5,000, therefore getting the rights for the first six months. He or she can then pay $2,500 to renew the option for the next six months, and then $5,500 for anywhere up to twelve months after. Sometimes the third renewal requires that the producer has a director, star, or theatre attached to the production. This is all to make sure that the producer is serious about producing this play or musical.

      Usually, a Broadway production option gives the producer first-class rights. This typically means a production in New York and possibly London. It can also include a first-class touring production. Other rights, such as rights to perform the work in other places around the world, are not included in first-class rights. It is also possible to get commercial use rights, which would give the producer rights to cast albums and merchandise that comes from the production. Subsidiary rights can also be negotiated. If a producer holds part of an author’s subsidiary rights, this would mean the producer would have a share in the profits from all amateur productions, television versions, or movie versions of this production. These rights typically only last for a certain period of time that is negotiated.

      The rights must be obtained for all parts a production. For example, for a musical, the rights must be obtained for the book, lyrics, and music.

      A producer can also hire a writer to create a work. This could be defined as a Work for hire. If the work is a work for hire, the copyright of the material would be given to the producer of the show, not the writer. Whether or not a work is a work for hire is defined in the contract.

      In many cases, the rights to any or all of these parts of a musical or play are distributed by various companies that monitor and represent the rights of the artists. Instead of dealing with the artist directly, these companies monitor the artists' rights.



      • [Bloom, Ken. Broadway, its history, people, and places: an encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis Publishing]
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