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a quick note on rights

When to obtain rights

You have to obtain rights for a play unless:

- You or your team have written it yourselves (it is original writing) OR

- The author died more than 70 years ago (it is in the public domain).


IMPORTANT (regarding adaptations and translations): Just because the source material for a story is in the public domain, does not mean all adaptations are. For example, ‘Oedipus Rex’ was written thousands of years ago , but a translation written 20 years ago would not be, so you would have to pay for rights to perform the translation. Similarly, if you are adapting a story, the story must be in the public domain. So you could adapt ‘Dracula’, a victorian novel, but not ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, which was written in the 60s.If you are unsure, google the title and author.



How to obtain rights

Note: We do not recommend that Cuppers teams apply for rights as it is expensive and time consuming, and requires a lot of notice.

For straight plays:

 If the play is published by Nick Hern Books, as most plays in student drama are, you can usually find a link to rights application on their online listing for the play: [](

More famous plays are often with Concord Theatricals: [](

If neither Nick Hern nor Concord have the rights, you have to find the agent of the writer and contact them directly. Writers are often with Casarotto Ramsay or Curtis Brown, but google the playwright to find out. There’s usually a deadline on paying for rights, around 4 weeks before performance dates, so there’s lots of time to bid for a venue and secure funding.

From James, OUDS Pres ‘I would always advise students to try and negotiate the price of rights down. It has always worked every single time that I’ve tried it, just by emphasising the fact we’re on a student budget. There is ofc such thing as too cheeky an offer; normally the more famous the play, the less room there is to negotiate. For rarely performed titles they are just happy to get anything.’


For Musicals:

For musicals, you normally obtain rights through MTI here - [](

Normally, fees for rights to musicals are non-negotiable.

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