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Performing Poetry at a Public Event

ucylcjh24 April 2015

A UCL department was planning a poetry performance to mark the WW1 centenary. The readings would be mainly of complete poems by authors of various nationalities. Where the original works were in a language other than English a translation would also be read either from a published source or translated into English by one of the team organising the event. What are the copyright issues and how should they be addressed?

Performance of copyright works is one of the activities restricted by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). Faced by this question, it is important to know whether the performances are internal to UCL and will be attended solely by our students and staff. If it were purely internal then the event would be covered by a copyright exception in Section 34 of the CDPA for performances within educational establishments. Had that been the case then there would have been no need to request permission to perform the works.

As it was, members of the public would be invited to attend the event and there would be a small entry charge to cover expenses, so Section 34 did not help us. The answer then was that, in so far as the works were still in copyright, it was necessary to seek permission from each copyright owner. Translating a work into another language is also a restricted act (a form of “adaptation”). It follows that where UCL people were producing an English translation for the occasion, they would really need the copyright owner’s permission to do so. If they were reading a published translation then that performance would also require permission, since the translation would also be protected by copyright (separate from the copyright in the original)