FAQ how do I arrange copyright when graduating?

How do you organise the copyright of your graduation performance, also if you want to present it again after you have graduated? As a creative or performing artist, you always have to deal with copyright, whether you are presenting somebody else's work or have created it yourself.

Arranging permission

Several aspects of copyright are often combined in a production: for instance, you may have designed the choreography yourself, but make use of the lighting design, costume design and music created by other people and for which they are the copyright holders. Likewise, if you perform a play written by someone else or a translation of it that is protected by copyright, you have to settle it properly. Theatre directors do not have copyright in the legal system that prevails in the Netherlands.

So as soon as you present the whole production, you need the permission of all of the copyright holders. Vice versa, if you create work that is copyrighted – i.e. as a scenographer, lighting designer or choreographer – other persons may not present or produce it without your permission.

Exception to copyright for educational performances

The Law on Copyright makes an important exception for education. If the performance takes place in connection with your training, if your training course is not of a commercial nature, and the creation and/or presentation forms part of your curriculum, then you do not need to obtain the permission of the copyright holders.

In practice this means a performance within the walls of the training institute for which only a voluntary contribution is requested. It is nevertheless worthwhile to acknowledge the name(s) of the copyright holder(s). If the performance takes place outside the institute's premises, or if the public has to pay for admission, the exception is probably not admissible. You should always check with your institute; it is in their interest too to ensure that copyright is properly respected.

What rights does the institute have?

If your training institute has not made any agreement with you and other creative artists, the copyright rests automatically with the makers. If you have created your contribution under the supervision or guidance of a third party, that third party holds the copyright. In theory that can be the training institute itself, but that is not usually the case.

Some institutes regulate the publicity of a work by one or more students. In that case the institute has the right to use your work for publicity purposes. Since you and your institute usually share similar interests, this should not be a problem.

Copyright of your performance after your graduation

If you want to present a performance after graduation that you created during your training, the exception for educational purposes is no longer applicable. In that case you need the permission of all copyright holders.

Besides the copyright belonging to the dramatist and the composer, you should not forget the scenographer, lighting designer, costume designer and décor designer. Organise it professionally, even if the copyright holders were fellow students. That does not necessarily mean that you will have to pay them, but you do require the written and signed permission of all those involved. Sometimes copyright holders have an agent or have called upon organisations such as BUMA, LIRA or Pictoright to defend their interests as copyright holders. Composers in particular have often transferred their rights to BUMA. You do have to pay organisations like these for their services.

Did employees of your training institute make a copyrighted contribution? In that case you require the permission of the institute. In principle an employer holds the copyright to works by an employee that are made within that relation of employment.

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