If I read a copyrighted story onstage, is it infringing?
May 27, 2015 7:18 PM   Subscribe

My nonprofit venue wants to do a dramatic reading of a Neil Gaiman story during a fundraiser. Is this performance a copyright problem?

Additional complications!
1. As I said, we're a nonprofit, but the event will be about raising money for us.
2. We had planned on recording the entire event and then having it broadcast on a local radio station (we have an agreement to do so with all our events).
3. The local radio station is ALSO a nonprofit entity.

My feeling is that the answer is "yes it's a problem" or "too murky/risky, don't do it" but I'd like to have a definitive answer if there is one. I have Googled and checked Ask but most of what I find pertains to music. Which thankfully we are covered on; our station pays ASCAP and BMI for songs that we're using/that will be broadcast. Readings of short stories, though, I can't find a good answer on those.

You are not my lawyer, this is not legal advice, etc.
posted by emjaybee to Law & Government (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Short answer: yes. But Neil Gaiman has a reputation as a pretty cool guy; if you contact him and tell him about your non-profit and what you have in mind, he might be willing to grant you permission.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:21 PM on May 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

This would be a public performance of the story, which is one of the rights of copyright, so you'd need permission. This applies equally to the in-person performance and the radio broadcast.
posted by benbenson at 7:22 PM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

I have gotten so much bad "advice" you guys, people have told me "You're a nonprofit, it doesn't apply!" to "Reading onstage is not performing, it doesn't count!"

So I want to clarify: being a nonprofit grants us no special leeway when it comes to performance/recording/broadcast legal issues.

Also: reading a story into a microphone counts as performance.

posted by emjaybee at 7:56 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

The advantage of being a non-profit here is that if you ask permission, you're likely to get it for free or cheap.
posted by jaguar at 8:01 PM on May 27, 2015

Oh absolutely jaguar, I just wanted to have something to come back with to my volunteers. Mr. Gaiman might grant permission, and if they're really intent on that story, we'll ask.
posted by emjaybee at 8:12 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Contacting and Contracting Neil Gaiman, from his official website.

Q. How do I get permission to adapt one of Neil's stories?
A. Contact Neil's agent, Merrilee Heifetz, listed above.

We tend to say yes to schools and non-profit entities. However, the film rights to "Chivalry" have been optioned and the option has been activated; which means that we'll have to check the contract to find out whether you need to ask us or Miramax for the "Chivalry" rights.

My emphasis. And read the whole page. For all you know, the stars could align and Mr. Gaiman could read it for you himself. Good luck.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:22 PM on May 27, 2015 [13 favorites]

So I want to clarify: being a nonprofit grants us no special leeway when it comes to performance/recording/broadcast legal issues.

Correct. If it were my nonprofit, I'd consider it a fiduciary duty to make certain this didn't happen without explicit permission. (IANAL, just a very stubborn treasurer.)
posted by teremala at 8:42 PM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

Yep. Ask him. And if you approach him in writing or in voice request for permission to use it on the radio as well - And let he and his agent know that you will publicize and praise his name repeatedly - cause he'll deserve it.
posted by Jim_Jam at 8:47 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

nthing ask him. He's done stuff like this before.
posted by bedhead at 10:00 PM on May 27, 2015

And try multiple avenues. He is quite active on Twitter, and might even signal boost if you get permission.
posted by mfu at 5:46 AM on May 28, 2015

« Older Good hard news sources for teens   |   cat lovers - need advice for stray cat family Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.