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Because amateur performing rights aren’t usually available while a play is in professional production, and can be withdrawn at any stage, it is vital that you check availability before making any commitment.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:

Australia
Dominie Drama, 8 Cross Street, Brookvale 2100
drama@dominie.com.au

New Zealand
Play Bureau, PO Box 420, New Plymouth
info@playbureau.com

South Africa
DALRO (pty) Ltd, PO Box 31627, 2017 Braamfontein
tel. (11) 712 8000
theatricals@dalro.co.za

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

 

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 online 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.

Alternatively, you can contact the Performing Rights Manager by email at PerformingRights@nickhernbooks.co.uk or by telephone on +44 (0)20 8749 4953. Please let us know the venue, expected performance dates, the name of the performing company, your full contact details and whether you are seeking amateur or professional performing rights.

 

How long does the application process take?

If the play you wish to perform is already available for amateur performance, we can normally give you confirmation straight away in writing and send you the details you need to apply for the licence.

We do not issue a licence until we have received your royalty payment in full. We ask that you send us payment at least six weeks before the date of your first performance, so that we can issue your licence in good time.

Once we have given you written confirmation of the availability of performing rights, we would only withdraw them in exceptionally rare circumstances.

 

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.

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 PerformingRights@nickhernbooks.co.uk 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 perusal 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 postage and packing. 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 PerformingRights@nickhernbooks.co.uk) 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?

Whether because of illness, a problem with the venue or some other factor, performances sometimes have to be cancelled. If you have already paid your licence fee and are unable to arrange alternative performance dates, we will offer you a credit note or a refund (refunds usually incur a small charge for administration). We are unable to refund the cost of any playtexts.

If you find you have to change the dates or venue of your performances, or if any other details change after you have applied for a licence, please let us know (by email at PerformingRights@nickhernbooks.co.uk or by telephone on +44 (0)20 8749 4953). If you’ve already received your licence, we can usually send you a revised version at no extra cost.

 

Cast sets

20% discount and free P&P on your cast set of scripts. 

Full details...