Copyright Policy and Resource Guide Performing Arts

Is it necessary to obtain permission for student performances of copyrighted works?

Yes. One of the exclusive rights given to the copyright holder is the right to control performances of all copyrighted works. Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act provides a limited exception to that right. Professors and students may perform (show) copyrighted works in the classroom. Under this exception, professors or students in a non-profit institution, in a classroom or similar place of instruction may carry out the performance.

This exception only applies to performances in face-to-face instruction in a course given for academic credit. It does not cover performances for entertainment or recreational purposes. It does not authorize performing works in common areas of student housing. "Non-theatrical public performance licenses" are required to perform audiovisual works in those circumstances or locations. Performing dramatic works requires an appropriate license from the playwright's agent. In addition, any copyrighted work incorporated into an original student or faculty dramatic work requires permission from the copyright holder.

Listed below are the some exceptions to the general copyright rule that requires permission for performance of copyrighted works.

1. Dramatic Works

The right of a copyright owner to perform a dramatic work publicly precludes all public performances of a play, opera, operetta, or musical comedy without a license. Dramatic works may be performed in the classroom under section 110 exception of the Copyright Act, but all requirements of that section must be met, including the requirement that attendance be limited to the professor and the students enrolled in the course.

2. Music

The college holds licenses with Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). These licenses grant the college non-theatrical public performance rights to music found in ASCAP's and BMI's catalogs. Note that this is not really an exception to the permission requirement. ASCAP and BMI seek permission for our performances in exchange for a fee. These licenses simply relieve us of the burden of seeking permission on our own. If you have questions about whether your intended performance is covered under these licensing agreements, please contact Toya Cooper, Special Assistant to the President for Legal Affairs for assistance.

3. Student Projects

While the law does not specifically address student uses of copyrighted works, the Senate report accompanying the Copyright Revision Act of 1976 identified "special uses" by students. Based on certain statements, a consensus has developed that students may copy copyrighted works as a learning exercise. This suggests that students can integrate all types of materials into sound/slide, film, or television productions. Programs made under this exemption may be submitted for a grade, and may be shown to the other students in the class. However, the paper or product must remain the property of the student. The professor or the institution may not retain copies. It may not be shown, transmitted, or broadcast outside the classroom, and no copies may be sold or given away. Students who wish to make copies beyond these narrow constraints, or who wish to make additional uses of their student projects, should contact Special Assistant to the President for Legal Affairs, Toya Cooper; Textbook Manager, Jennifer Estes; or Director of Library & Information Services, John Murray for the appropriate permission procedures.