Performing Rights

The writing of plays and musicals is a means of livelihood for the authors whose work we celebrate in amateur performance. Quite apart from it being a legal requirement, it is vital that we continue to work together to ensure that all amateur dramatic productions are duly licensed. This ensures that existing and new playwrights continue to produce exciting work for our raison d’etre - great plays for both our groups and audiences!

The Drama League of Ireland office is regarded, by amateur societies throughout Ireland, as the primary point of contact for acquiring amateur rights for plays. When considering any play for production, it is crucial to check with the DLI Office to ensure that the amateur performance rights are available. We will advise on the availability of plays for the agencies which the DLI represents, but we can also send you in the right direction to enquire about rights for the playwrights who we do not represent.

The Drama League of Ireland is the authorised agent for

Frequently Asked Questions

How do we know if the DLI issues licences for a given play?

Check with us. Contact Valerie in our office at Tel: (01) 2969343 or at dli@eircom.net.

We have picked a play - when should we apply for rights?

Check availability of rights prior to commencing rehearsals. Not all plays are available for amateur production and some frequently have temporary geographical or other restrictions. Restrictions regularly apply to a number of playwrights’ work, such as Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, David Mamet, Arthur Miller, John Patrick Shanley and Sam Shepard.

Why are plays restricted or unavailable for amateur performance?

A new play will not be released for amateur performance until the professional stage life has been fully exploited. Similarly when an existing play is revived professionally, amateur rights are often restricted or withdrawn completely until the professional contract has expired. This is in order to protect the professional production's box office income.

How long does it take to find out if a play is available or not?

We will usually be able to tell you immediately. In some cases it may be necessary for us to contact the agencies in London or New York or we may need to contact the author directly. Replies can take anything from a few hours to a few days.

The play is a very old play - do we still have to pay royalties?

Copyright law is a complex area. As a general rule, playwrights who have been deceased for over 70 years are not subject to copyright. Translations or adaptations of their works however may still be subject to copyright law. (e.g. The Seagull by Anton Chekhov trans Tom Stoppard). Please check to be sure.

What's the difference between an amateur and a professional production?

The actors in a professional production must either be members of Equity or trained and/or recognised professional actors who work in the business. Amateur actors perform as a leisure activity and earn their living by other means. It is a requirement of some of the agents whom we represent that the maximum theatre capacity for an amateur production should not exceed 300. Note: The DLI only handles amateur rights.

Does the amateur licence come with conditions?

Yes. The most important of these is that the unaltered play title and the name of the author must appear clearly on the poster and on all other promotional material. The publicity material must also indicate that it is an amateur production. There have been instances in the past where prominent authors have withdrawn all amateur rights because this requirement has not been complied with. Naturally it is not in the interest for amateur groups for this to happen. There may be other conditions, depending on the play and these will be clearly indicated on the licence itself.

When do we have to pay for the performing rights?

Payment for rights should be made at least 14 days before the date of the first performance(s). Each payment may be made by cheque/order, but EFT payments may be made by arrangement with the DLI Office.

How much do performing rights cost?

In general, full length plays cost €95 per performance and one-act plays cost €45 per performance. However, a specific play might have a different fee associated with it (e.g. short sketches).

What can happen if we don’t pay for the performing rights?

To ensure that all shows are duly licensed, the DLI, through a team of volunteers throughout the country, regularly monitors local newspapers, roadside signs and other publications with a view to identifying all dramatic performances, both licensed and unlicensed. It is in everybody’s interest that shows have the necessary performing rights – this protects the future of amateur drama.

In cases where plays are identified, for which royalties have not been paid, a set of procedures, which have been agreed with the agents whom we represent, are initiated. A planned show could have to be cancelled at the last minute. In other jurisdictions heavy penalties have been imposed on groups who chose not to pay for performing rights.

The DLI is a body whose main function is to represent amateur groups - with this in mind, we do not wish to see any group placed in a difficult situation. It is, therefore, in everyone’s interest that we all adopt a mature and responsible attitude when it comes to the payment of royalties.

We are only performing a short extract from a play - do we still need performing rights?

Yes. All productions, regardless of length, must be licensed. In the case of excerpts, however, the fee will be reduced depending on the length of the excerpt. Groups are advised to contact us with the details.

Can we get a refund of royalties if our production is cancelled?

Normally, yes. We must, however, be advised as soon as you know that all or some of your performances are being cancelled and the licence must be returned to us for cancellation or amendment. Refunds cannot be granted if a period of weeks has elapsed since the scheduled end of the production as, by that time, the money will already have been paid on to the author.

Do we have to pay royalties if we don't charge for admission?

Yes. Legally a production must be licensed if it is witnessed by the general public, regardless of whether or not a charge is being made to them. Performances before audiences reduce the earning potential of a play for which the author must be compensated in the form of royalty fees.

We are raising money for charity. Can we get a royalty waiver or reduction?

Unfortunately, no. Royalties represent authors' income and it isn't appropriate to ask them to support fundraising in the form of lost royalties.

Our production is private. Do we still have to pay royalties?

A production is only private if it takes place in a person's home and only before their family and friends. Performances given in clubs, halls or any public places are public performances.

Isn't a school production private?

If a play is performed by members of the school before an audience of staff and students, it is classified as an educational exercise and no licence is required. However, if any persons from outside the school are admitted (e.g. families and friends) the production becomes a public one.

Can changes be made to scripts when they are being performed?

No changes of any kind may be made without the permission of the author and this is a condition of your licence. This includes changing the sex of characters and cutting out "bad" language or changes to the time and place/setting of the play. Some authors may agree to changes if a persuasive case is made in support of the request, but this is by no means always so.

Can we video-record our production?

Video-recording is a complex issue. The issuing of a performing licence does not include recording rights. Recording rights may be available for some plays, for others we may need to refer you to the authors' agents and in other cases the rights may be not available at all. You should make no plans to record your production until this question has been fully researched well in advance.

Is there a difference in applying for rights for a play and for a musical?

Yes. The issuing of rights for a musical is a more complex issue. Unlike a play, set fee structures do not exist for musicals. The fees are generally based on the musical in question, the size of the hall/theatre and the box office receipts. Musicals also require the hire of orchestral material and it is best to discuss all these issues with the appropriate agency by telephone or email in advance.

How far in advance do we need to apply for an amateur performing licence for a musical?

We always recommend that you enquire as far in advance as possible in order to avoid disappointment if any unexpected restrictions may apply to the show that you wish to perform.

Application for Performing Rights