A recent enquiry concerned reading from various literary works at a University event. Do we need permission if the work is still in copyright? Actually there is an exception in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) which is not often discussed. The exception in Section 59(1) permits the reading or recitation in public of a “reasonable extract” from a published literary and dramatic works. There are no restrictions about the context or the type of event, so it could be commercial. Similarly it is not subject to a “fair dealing” test (as are many of the more familiar exceptions in the CDPA), just the “reasonable extract” requirement:
“59 Public reading or recitation
(1) The reading or recitation in public by one person of a reasonable extract from a published literary or dramatic work does not infringe any copyright in the work if it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.
(2) Copyright in a work is not infringed by the making of a sound recording, or the communication to the public, of a reading or recitation which by virtue of subsection (1) does not infringe copyright in the work, provided that the recording or communication to the public consists mainly of material in relation to which it is not necessary to rely on that subsection.”
Section 59(2) even permits the making of a sound recording and communication to the public as long as they do not consist mainly of material which depends on this exception. That is, there needs to be more substantial content to the recording or the communication in addition to the “reasonable extracts” from protected works.