When applying for performance rights, you are asking for permission to use copyright protected material belonging to the playwright. If you would like to stage a play, you need to get the playwright’s approval, and pay for the right to perform the play. By disregarding payment and/or approval of the use of copyrighted content, you are not only breaking the law, you are also overlooking artistic morals. Acquiring rights not only protects the creator of the content, it also protects the user… you!
By this point, you most likely have a Canadian play in mind for your future production and you might be wondering where to start. This guide can help you navigate the process of applying for and (hopefully) securing amateur performance rights.
Determine whether or not your production is considered amateur or professional. If your group is a community theatre or educational institution, your production will fall in the amateur category. Theatre companies that are members of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) are considered professional. If you are part of an indie theatre group or collective, then you will need to look at what kind of contracts you are using and how you are paying the artists to determine your status. If professional contracts are being used (ADC, CAEA, PACT, etc.), then your production will be considered professional. If you need to consult with someone about whether or not your production is amateur or professional, please email email@example.com. If you are looking for professional rights, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You will need to know the approximate location of your production before applying for rights. Some producers want to know if the rights are available before planning the production, but it’s not always that simple. The availability of rights depends on a number of things, one being whether or not there’s another production within a 100-mile radius. Also, the rates of performance rights will depend on the house size of your proposed venue. So, although you may not be ready to book a venue and pay for that space, you should know the city or town and have a venue in mind. If your venue changes after you sign the amateur rights contract, you can update the agent, playwright, or PGC (whoever is handling the contract) with that new information and the contract can be altered. If the house size changes drastically or the city/town changes, your request may need to be re-assessed, which is fine. It is much better for the rights manager and playwright to know the details than it is to (unwittingly) break a contract.
You will also need to know the approximate dates of your proposed production. It does make it easier if you already know the exact dates of performances, but it is understandable if the production plans are not there yet. Knowing the month or even the season (example: Fall, 2022) will get everyone closer to figuring out if the rights are going to be available.
You should now be ready to locate the person or organization who handles the rights. PGC recommends that you contact us first if you don’t know who handles the rights. If your request is for a Canadian play, and you have made it to this point on the checklist, you can simply fill out a PGC Amateur Rights Request Form. Once this form is submitted, PGC will do the work of locating the rights manager. This will either be the playwrights themselves, their agent, a publisher, an estate, or PGC. PGC will forward your request to the rights manager (playwright, agent, publisher, etc.), so that they can respond to your inquiry. If the playwright is not a member of PGC, and we don’t have any information on file for them, we will let you know and give you advice on where to look next. If PGC handles the amateur rights, we will contact you within two weeks of your request to discuss availability and rates.
If your request is approved, the rights manager will provide you with the rates. PGC has set some standard minimum rates, which many agents and playwrights follow, but these rates may differ from play to play and production to production. You can discuss this in detail with the rights manager but some more information on rates can be found here.