Anyone familiar with performance rights?

i’ve recently found about performance rights as part of copyright. do we seriously need permission to perform a piece in something small like a parish talent show or something for a non-profit for example? seems like it’s getting a bit ridiculous to me? anyone familiar with this? what about making a cover of a song, is that illegal too?

this makes me afraid of youtube now since i don’t know what is legit on there or not.

i seriously didn’t know though, i just though[SIGN]t you just needed copyright if you wanted to make money off it[/SIGN]


You are violating copyright if you perform something. Even if it’s for charity.

It’s not solely about money.

The creator has a say over how something is used.

This is why you’ll find soda cans fuzzed out in music videos: because Coke doesn’t necessarily want to be associated with a bunch of foul mouthed rappers singing about picking up prostitutes and killing each other.

Yes. It’s actually illegal to even sing the “happy birthday” tune without permission, as it is still privately owned.

““i’ve recently found about performance rights as part of copyright””

  • Copyright laws can be very complex.
  • Take for example, a parody/spoof/mockary of a play or song can be just fine - WeirdAL made and makes a lot of money by doing just that sort of thing, he’s been taken to court for royalties, and the courts have found that the derived work was not protected by the copyright.
  • Happy Birthday, yes a protected song when sung verbatium and in a setting wherein one profits by it. However, sung in your own home, or even in a classroom to your friends or family, nothing they can do about it.
  • Reciting a portion of a poem or part of a play for a talent show, most likely falls under the fair usage section of the copyright act because the amount is small and usually creditied to author. You need to read the fair usage clause yourself!
  • If you receive the play/music as part of an arrangement for performance (ie Marching Band, School play) check the first few pages of the master document. It will usually provide a release for performance and under what conditions.
  • Otherwise, you need to find the publisher, they usually hold the copy/performance rights or know who does, and write to them explaining the entire situation. We’ve done this a few times when I was in highschool for our Jazz band… as we didn’t charge for the show, the publisher was all too happy to allow us to perform the piece, and in one case even included a clause that allowed use to charge a nominal fee to cover rental/hall usage

Not necessarily:

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:

(3) performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or of a dramatico-musical work of a religious nature, or display of a work, in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly;
(4) performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work otherwise than in a transmission to the public, without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and without payment of any fee or other compensation for the performance to any of its performers, promoters, or organizers, if—
(A) there is no direct or indirect admission charge…

(10) notwithstanding paragraph (4), the following is not an infringement of copyright: performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work in the course of a social function which is organized and promoted by a nonprofit veterans’ organization or a nonprofit fraternal organization to which the general public is not invited, but not including the invitees of the organizations, if the proceeds from the performance, after deducting the reasonable costs of producing the performance, are used exclusively for charitable purposes and not for financial gain.


I’m not a lawyer. Giving legal advice without a license is also against the law.

But the short answer is - yes it is illegal, don’t do it.

We deal with copyright issues all the time. It’s not complicated. I see you are in Canada, so you should contact the Canadian Intellectual Property Office:

In the United States, there is this widespread myth that ‘not making money off it’ let’s you off the hook. The FBI will tell you that’s not true.


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