Using music and books in library puppet shows?

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  • We are getting ready to create a puppet show at our library. We will be basing the puppet show on several books and using songs from artists like Laurie Berkner. If we are performing this in public, for no admission price, do we need to contact the authors/artists and ask for permission?

    So the next question: What if we perform this puppet show at a performance art festival, which charges admission to enter the festival? But we don't benefit from it, and the fee would be paid whether we were there or not. Does this change the copyright situation?
  • Public performance, whether for pay or not, is part of the rights included in copyright, so you'll want to clear this in some way. You may determine that your intended use falls under fair use. If not, then you would need to contact the copyright holders (which may or may not be the artists) for permission, and may need to pay a fee. I don't think that performing the show at the performing arts festival, as opposed to just at the library, would significantly impact a fair use analysis, but it might impact copyright holders' awareness of the performance, which might impact their legal reactions, justified or not.

    To make fair use determinations, it might be helpful to use the checklist linked from this sites' home page. You'll want to make a separate analysis for each work you use. My guess is that the amount of each story that you use will be critical to each analysis. Since it sounds like you will be using entire songs, and licensing is readily available (well, I don't know Laurie Berkner, but generally it is available), my guess is that the use of the music would not be fair use, but the use of the books might be.
  • I think there are two questions here - public performance of music and adaptation of copyrighted works.

    Public performance of music:
    If you are performing nondramatic (i.e., not a dramatic performance like a musical or opera) music in your library and you are not charging admission, your public performance of the music is likely to fall under the exception of section 110(4):

    "(4) performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work otherwise than in a transmission to the public, without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and without payment of any fee or other compensation for the performance to any of its performers, promoters, or organizers, if —

    (A) there is no direct or indirect admission charge; or..."

    If you are performing nondramatic music at an event that charges an admission fee, you might still fall under the section 110(4) exception if the even complies with these requirements:

    "(B) the proceeds, after deducting the reasonable costs of producing the performance, are used exclusively for educational, religious, or charitable purposes and not for private financial gain, except where the copyright owner has served notice of objection to the performance under the following conditions:

    (i) the notice shall be in writing and signed by the copyright owner or such owner's duly authorized agent; and

    (ii) the notice shall be served on the person responsible for the performance at least seven days before the date of the performance, and shall state the reasons for the objection; and

    (iii) the notice shall comply, in form, content, and manner of service, with requirements that the Register of Copyrights shall prescribe by regulation;"

    Adaptation of a copyrighted work:
    If you create a puppet show from a book, you are creating an adaptation of the original work. The right of adaptation is one of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner, so you would need to get permission to adapt and perform the derivative work unless your use falls under one of the exceptions. In your library puppet show example, it is possible that your adaptation might fall under section 107 fair use (but if you are using the entire copyrighted story in your adaptation, this might not be fair use under the amount/substantiality criterion). To be safe, you might want to ask for permission before performing the adaptation - esp. at the "for a fee" event.

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