Performance of copyright material is an exclusive right of the copyright owner and generally permission is required to perform a work. A performance may be:

  • Performing a play
  • Reading from a literary work
  • Playing recorded music
  • Showing all or part of a film.

There are a number of provisions in the Copyright Act that permit staff and students to perform copyright material without needing to ask for permission. These include:

  • Performance of non-musical works in class for educational purposes: you can show a film, read from a literary work or perform a play in class for educational purposes.
  • Performance of musical works in class for educational purposes: you can perform or play a musical work or sound recording in class for educational purposes. This is covered by s 28 of the Copyright Act and also the Music Licence.
  • Performance of musical works and sound recordings for non-educational purposes: the Music Licence allows musical works and sound recordings from the Music Societies' repertoires to be performed for limited non-educational purposes at University events. For more information see the music licence.
  • TV and radio broadcasts can be copied and played for educational purposes under the Statutory Licence (Part VA). The audience must be restricted to University staff and students.

Public performances

If you intend to give a public performance for the general public, and it is not covered by the music licence, you will need to seek permission from the copyright owner. Permission is required even whether or not you are charging an entry fee or are operating on a not-for-profit basis. Licenses may be required and can be obtained from the various collecting societies such as CAL, APRA or Screenrights, usually at a fee. This can take some time, so communicating with these bodies as early as possible is advisable.


You will need permission from copyright owners if you intend to rearrange, adapt or translate a script, music, lyrics, novel or story. This includes additions to the works and will apply regardless of whether or not the performance is for educational purposes or for the general public.

See adapting copyright material.

Performers have further rights apart from those of authors, composers etc. and consent must be obtained to:

  • Record or broadcast a live performance
  • Deal commercially with an unauthorised recording of a live performance
  • Use an authorised sound recording on a soundtrack.

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