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Copyright For Drama Teachers

Copyright Law affects all Drama teachers, students and educators. Anyone who has anything to do with a play – be it photocopying the text for class, performing it in front of an audience, or wanting to change the language. All of these actions fall under copyright law.

What is copyright?

Copyright is a bundle of intellectual property rights that protect works of artistic expression such as art, music, and plays. To qualify for protection, the work has to originate with an author, be original and not a copy. The work must be the product of creative effort, and the author must use skill. That means the play you’re doing is probably protected by copyright.

What does copyright protect?

Reproduction, public performances, publication, adaptation/editing/modification (i.e. derivative works), and translation. You can’t do any of the above without permission. This includes photocopying, performance, cuts for time, gender changes, changes to the text.

When does copyright expire?

70 years (USA) or 50 (Canada) after the death of the author. George Bernard Shaw is free from copyright in Canada but not in the US.

What’s the Public Domain?

Works in the domain of the public. That’s you! Public Domain works are not protected by copyright. You can reproduce them, perform them, adapt and translate them. Download free Public Domain plays on Project Gutenberg.

What aspects of a play are protected by copyright?

The script, the set design, the choreography and sometimes the lighting design. The choreography you saw in another production is protected by copyright, so create your own.

I don’t have to pay for royalties if I’m not charging admission, right?

Wrong. The script is protected from public performances. This includes any public performance: a free show, an invited dress, a preview, a competition.

I’m safe if I’m parodying a script aren’t I?

Only if you’re creating an original work of your own. If you’re using text from the original, you could be considered to be creating a derivative work. And that belongs to the original creator.


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