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Frequently Asked Questions


Welcome


Licensing a play should be as quick and straight-forward as possible, leaving all the drama for the stage. With that in mind, we’ve created these FAQs to guide you through the process, so you can get on with the important stuff, like wigs and programming.

Our Submissions Policy is also detailed below.

We’re always on hand to answer any further questions you might have.

Get to know us and the person who might be best to answer your query.

For all Musicals enquiries, please go to MTI Europe.


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I’m not sure what play I’d like to perform. Can I request a Reading Copy?


Of course! Digital perusal copies of up to 4 plays can be requested by selecting ‘Request Reading Copy’ next to the applicable script. We will then email you an easily accesible link where you can download a digital version of the script to read. Please note, due to copyright restrictions, you will be unable to print these digital versions.

Scripts that are now out of print will have no option to buy. We don’t want this to be a hinderance to you accessing the script, but the play can still be within copyright, so we can assist by granting a photocopy licence at the point of initiating a licensing application, which is then added to the licence fee. This is £25 for small casts and £35 for bigger casts.

This also enables you to make an enlarged photocopy of the play, providing you do not use the copy for any other purpose. The enlarged copy should be destroyed after your production has finished.


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How do I apply for a licence from Josef Weinberger?


From the Plays & Pantomime section of the website, there is a link to License a Play or Pantomime which takes you to a form that automatically comes through to us here at JW Plays. You can also search for a play based on your needs: author, length of play, cast size etc and then choose the option on the right-hand side that is most applicable: a professional or amateur licence.

If this is an enquiry only and you do not wish to start the licensing process, please write this on the second page of the licence application (after pressing ‘Apply for Licence’) and we will answer your availability query and the estimated royalty fee via email or give you a call. Please also detail the language you wish to perform the play in – English or otherwise. The more information, the better! We always require the details of your venue, ticket pricing and concrete production dates. All our prices for non-professional licences are inclusive of VAT and calculated during the application process.

Once you’ve completed your application, you’ll be issued with an agreement which becomes a valid licence once you have signed the licence and all fees have been paid.


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I know the play I want to perform. How do I find out where to obtain the license?


Rights may be granted by authors, agents or performance rights agents like Josef Weinberger. It’s best to bear in mind that we license individual plays, not authors, although we champion many of our author’s entire catalogues.

Information on where to go to apply for a licence is usually listed on the copyright page of any text; the more up-to-date the text, the better! To browse our full licensing catalogue
click here

We may not handle the rights outside of the UK and Ireland, and we generally don’t hold rights outside of the stage, but we can point you in the right direction.


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Why is a licence needed to perform a play?


Plays are protected by copyright from the moment they flow from the writer’s pen, which means that for a certain amount of time you need to seek the playwright’s permission and pay them to perform their work publicly. That period is within 70 years of the author’s death in the UK. Plays written by authors who died more than 70 years ago are generally not covered by copyright.

Licence fees make up an essential part of a writer’s income and, by seeking permission, you are championing, keeping alive and reinventing that author’s work, regardless of the production being non-professional or professional.

You are also protecting your production because once the licence is signed and paid for, your agreement is a valid licence and proof of your entitlement to stage the play. Theatres will ask to see this agreement before accepting the production.

Other handy tips for copyright law and plays are:

Copyright covers modern translations or adaptations of older works, as they are now considered new works whose copyright is owned by the translator or adaptor, even if the original author died more than 70 years ago.


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Do I need a licence for the type of performance I’m doing?


The performance will count as ‘public’ unless you are performing in your own house X-Factor style, or in the classroom as part of a normal teaching day, with no guests (paying or otherwise). Generally, the concept of performing a play precludes these two exceptions. Licences are required for copyright-protected plays whether you are charging for tickets or not. Filming the performance is prohibited.

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What about applying from a charity?


The performance does count as ‘public’ and therefore requires a licence. As royalties make up an author’s livelihood, we cannot make exceptions but can happily provide more information.

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When should I apply and how long will the application take?


Once an application has been submitted, we will endeavour to respond to you as soon as possible. Do not panic if a couple of working days have passed; we may be trying to pull strings in the background!

As the rights to a play can be restricted at any time, it is best to apply up to a year in advance. This way, you can crystallise your programme and marketing materials as the licence must be granted before you commence even announcing or advertising the play. If you are looking to put on a production in less than 6 months or you get an affirmative answer on the availability of a play and then do not proceed with your application for a couple of weeks, please bear in mind that there is no guarantee that the rights will be available. We generally cannot issue licences more than a year in advance.

It is important to sign your licence at the same time as making payment, as per the licence agreement. Payment alone does not constitute a valid, counter-signed licence.


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Can I change the script?


Copyright prohibits any alterations to the script, including script cuts of any kind or gender swaps unless it is specified that the casting is fluid (as is the case with some scripts). Do get in touch with us to see what we can do.

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Do you have Braille services for your scripts?


At this moment in time, regretfully we cannot provide a transcription service. However, the RNIB (Royal Institute of Blind People: www.rnib.org.uk) do have a transcription service, and please do see the note on enlarged photocopies under the Reading Copy FAQ. We are working to make our scripts as accessible as possible. More to follow.

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Can I perform an extract of a play under copyright?


Generally, an extract greater than 4 minutes must be licensed as an extract licence and fees apply. Libraries and colleges can copy up to four per cent of the total of a published work, but they must be signatories to the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA). Their telephone number is +44 (0)207 400 3100 and email is info@cla.co.uk.

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What happens if rights are denied and the play is restricted?


Most of the plays in our catalogue are available for performance but, from time to time, there are restrictions. This can happen due to circumstances out of our control, such as:

• The play is new and still being performed professionally, or producers of professional productions have restrictions in place for certain locations and times to avoid clashes with non-professional productions.

• The production request is for an area like London and Edinburgh, and the author and / or agent would like to know more.

• Indeed, authors can restrict the availability of their plays at any time and for any reason. We always strive to keep you as informed as possible.

Should your first-choice play be unavailable, we will give you as much information as possible and happily help you find an alternative play.


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Do you accept unsolicited submissions?


Unfortunately not, but we love to hear from writers above and beyond our biannual Mercury / Weinberger Playwriting prize. We will read synopses that are accompanied by a production history. We generally acquire plays that have had some sort of professional and commercial exposure but very occasionally we acquire plays that have enjoyed success on the non-professional stage.

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