How to Apply for Rights

See below for some Frequently Asked Questions about licensing a Nick Hern Books play for performance. If you have any further questions, please contact our friendly Performing Rights Department by emailing or calling +44 (0)20 8749 4953.

Please note that the inclusion of a title on this website does not necessarily indicate that it is currently available for performance. Always check the availability of rights before making any commitments.

To check availability of rights, or if you're ready to apply for your performance licence, please complete our online form.


Frequently Asked Questions



Why do I need to apply for rights?

If you want to put on a performance of a play that's in copyright, whether you're a professional company, an amateur group or simply an individual, you will need to apply for a performing rights licence.

UK copyright expires seventy years from the end of the year in which the author dies. After this time the play may be performed freely and no permission is required – these plays are identified as 'Royalty Free' on our Plays to Perform site. Please remember, though, that in the case of a work in translation the copyright period is seventy years from the end of the year in which the author or the translator dies, whichever is later. This means that many versions of classic plays on our list are still in copyright, and you will need to apply for a licence to perform them.

Please support our hard-working playwrights, who earn their living, at least in part, from the royalties they earn from performances of their work.


Who controls the rights?

We handle amateur performing rights for nearly all the plays we publish, as well as for some plays published by other publishers. If we don't handle the rights for a play we publish, we can normally tell you who does, or this information can usually be found on the copyright page of the published playtext.

Because amateur performing rights aren't usually available while a play is in professional production, and plays can be re-restricted even if they've previously been released for amateur performance, it is vital that you check availability before making any commitment.

Ultimately, it is the author or the author's agent who makes decisions about when to release amateur performing rights, or sometimes to restrict rights after they've been released (usually because the play has secured a professional revival). Whilst we're happy to try to negotiate the release of rights on your behalf, we do ask you to be patient as this process can sometimes take a considerable time.

We also handle professional performing rights for a small number of plays, or we can put you in touch with the relevant rights holder.


Performances outside the UK

For amateur performing rights in the following territories, please contact our associate licensing agents:

ORiGiN Theatrical

New Zealand
Play Bureau

For all other territories, contact Nick Hern Books in the first instance: call +44 (0)20 8749 4953, or email


How do I know if the performing rights are available?

You need to check with us before making any commitment. The inclusion of a play on our Plays to Perform site does not guarantee that performing rights are available.

The simplest way to check on the availability of performing rights for the play you wish to perform is to fill out this simple form. You can also find this form by clicking 'Apply for Performing Rights' on the page for any play on the Plays to Perform site. We will normally respond within 2-3 working days, although it may take longer to confirm the availability of rights if we need to contact the author or their agent.

If you need any assistance in filling out the form, please email us at or by telephone on +44 (0)20 8749 4953.


How long does the application process take?

If the play you have applied to perform is readily available for amateur performance, we can normally give you confirmation straight away in writing. In other cases, we may need to check the play's availability with the writer's literary agent; we ask that you allow up to two weeks for us to make these enquiries and hear back, though this may take longer in some cases.

Once we have confirmed the play's availabilty, we will then email you to ask for confirmation of your production details and invite you to request an invoice, which must be paid within thirty days from the date on which it was issued.

Your production is only considered 'licensed' once payment has been made. Any restrictions that are later placed on the availability of the performing rights for your chosen play will not affect your production if you have already secured your licence – so be sure to pay promptly to guarantee availability!


How much do performing rights cost?

Amateur performing rights are mostly charged for on a simple per-performance basis. The charges vary depending on the type of play – you will find them given alongside the details for every play on our Plays to Perform site. 'Royalty free' means that the play is out of copyright and can be performed free of charge, without the need to apply for rights.

Please note that VAT will be added at the current rate if your performance is taking place within the UK.

We are able to consider discounts only in special circumstances.

Professional royalties are usually calculated as a percentage of box-office revenue. This should be contractually agreed with the performing rights holder in advance.


How do I apply to perform a play with the original music?

Some of our plays can be licensed for performance with their original musical score. For a list of plays with music, click here. For a list of our musicals, click here.

If you wish to use the music in performance, an additional royalty fee is payable. Contact the Performing Rights Manager for details, by email at or by telephone on +44 (0)20 8749 4953.

We can supply the appropriate music score as a printable digital pdf file. There is a charge for this, but we can send you a non-printable version for inspection while you consider whether or not you wish to use the music in performance.


Are there any other conditions of the licence?

It is a requirement of any performing rights licence that you purchase a cast set of scripts for the play you are performing. This is because it is against the law to photocopy scripts without a licence, including for the purposes of performance. You do not need to buy your copies direct from Nick Hern Books, but if you do we offer a 20% discount and free delivery within the UK for orders over £40. For more details, see Cast Sets.

There are also some important stipulations regarding the way you promote or publicise your production:

  • The title of the play should be given in full, in the form in which it appears in the published playtext.
  • The name(s) of the author(s), including any adaptor or translator, should appear in proximity to the title.
  • If your licence is for an amateur performance, all publicity, including any poster and theatre programme, should clearly state that it is an 'amateur production by arrangement with Nick Hern Books'.
  • Further stipulations usually apply for professional productions, and these will be made clear in the terms of the contract.

The play should always be performed in accordance with the published text. If for any reason you need to make any cuts or amendments, you should contact the Performing Rights Manager (by email at with full details, well in advance of the first performance, so that we can get them approved.


What happens if we have to cancel some or all of our performances?

If you need to cancel your production and terminate your licence, you can do so at any time prior to the date of your first performance or broadcast date and receive a refund in one of the following ways:

  • a credit note for the full value of your licence, which can be redeemed against a future production
  • a refund via bank transfer, for the value of your licence minus a £30 administration fee

If your production has already started and you need to cancel one or more performances, you can do so and receive the equivalent refund via the methods listed above.

If you also need to return a cast set of scripts purchased directly from Nick Hern Books, please arrange this by emailing Please note that ebooks and PDF scripts and scores are non-refundable.

Cast sets

Get a 20% discount on your cast set of scripts – plus free delivery on orders over £40. 

Full details...