Mary writes a play calling for the character of Joe to sing "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face," as he realizes he is falling in love with Sandra. In the next scene, Sandra listens to Frank Sinatra's recording of Kander and Ebb's "Theme from New York, New York," while she packs her suitcase. Meanwhile, to establish the time period of his play as the 1890's, Mary's colleague Bill has his characters sing "After The Ball." And, finally, Mary's friend Isabella wants to write a musical based on the life and career of Elton John, using his songs. All of these situations call for the use other people's material, thereby raising questions frequently asked by playwrights: Do I need permission to use these songs? When do I need to obtain permission? How can I get permission? Can the copyright owners refuse my use of their songs? Are the owners entitled to royalties? If so, how much?
Here's a quick overview of using someone else's song in your play. (more…)