Teachers and the photocopier; it's an intense and much valued relationship. I would admit, probably like many other teachers, that I hadn't given copyright licensing much thought throughout most of my teaching career, UNTIL that is I was stopped in my drama-teacher tracks by the strict rules of Performing Rights. Since then I pay more attention to those licensing stickers in text books and on the photocopiers.
I had been teaching for five years at the time, and whilst I had always known about the need for Performing Rights when putting on a play in any capacity, I wasn't aware about the need to be so rigorous on the individual and specific rules. There is certainly no slack for schools, Am Drams or any other establishment that seeks to put on a play and sell tickets for it, whatever the size of the audience.
I had chosen to do a Key Stage Three production of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. With much excitement, it was all systems a-go-go; scripts bought, auditions held and parts cast. I had been rehearsing for three months when I checked my 'Production To-do List' and thought I had better crack on with applying for the Performing Rights in good time before the show was due to be performed in 10 weeks. Not once did it occur to me that my application would be rejected and my hard work and the students' developing thespian skills would be tossed on the refusal pile! I was shocked to read the stern letter explaining that I had no right to perform the play in any public capacity.
I was mortified. Fuelled both by indignation and embarrassment, I went to my line-manager who wisely told me there was no way we could put this performance on to parents in any shape or form. In the end all that hard work was salvaged by sharing the play with the rest of the students in the school, but no tickets were sold, no parents came and my credentials as a competent drama teacher/director felt very much in shreds. Of course, I managed to hide my embarrassing mistake by informing all involved that the rights had been pulled due to a production of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' being likely to appear in the West End soon. This was mostly guess work on my part, but of course, a few years later 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' smashed the West End.
After being refused the Performing Rights, I knew well enough that indeed... that-was-that. Some colleagues scoffed and nonchalantly said: 'Put it on anyway', 'Who will know?', 'It's only a school show - how's that going to affect a West End production?' ... but I did thankfully know better, and knew that rights were rights and on this occasion permission to re-use had been rejected; it didn't matter how small fry my production felt!
So, what have I learnt? You really can't be too careful. Any rights must be obtained before even thinking about the rehearsal process. I have since become more scrupulous about my timings when applying for Performing Arts Rights' - mostly to ensure my productions don't, like Augustus Gloop, get sucked up a tube and spat out unsuccessfully!
About the Author
Sally is a trained teacher of Drama and English, having taught for 12 years. She has worked in a range of London schools for the majority of her career, since moving to Wiltshire in 2015 with her husband and two young children. Sally best enjoys directing students in school productions and trying to write a script or two in her spare time!