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Anyone with knowledge in law, music, copyright, and/or intellectual rights out there? For I have a question.

I have a new idea for a novel turning about in my head. It would center around a theatre production of a musical, though would really be about the interactions between some of the participants. I was thinking of a play by Sondheim in particular. I wouldn't make fun of the play; I like it, and would represent it in a flattering light. There would be rampant use of character names and lines and lyrics. I'd mention Sondheim by name; there would be no question that he wrote it, not me. So, do I need permission to use it, or is it decidedly "fair use" to do something like this? If I do need permission, who do I ask? Would I have to pay for it?

If I have to pay, then really, I'm just going to scrap the whole idea.


Jul. 26th, 2004 11:14 am (UTC)
I think it depends on the degree to which your work included material from the play. If your characters go to see Sweeney Todd, maybe hum a few bars on the way out of the theater, it probably falls under fair use. If you include a lot of lyrics, you might need to get permission from the copyright owner, which would probably mean Sondheim's publishers, agents, or manager. What you're doing is unusual; in practical terms, in making an inquiry you'd probably get bumped to the people who license out his musicals for regional performances and have to spend a lot of time on the phone just finding the right people to talk to. They'd also likely be wary about how Sondheim's works are portrayed (don't take this personally; think of the crank factor among his fans), and make you go through a lot of hoops. This might involve some monetary payment.

My offhand guess is that unless you know someone on the inside, it might be possible to get permission, but it would probably be a huge pain in the ass, and unlikely to be free. This isn't an intimately educated opinion on my part, so feel free to discard it in favor of advice from someone more on the inside. But I think it's a reasonable educated guess.

Jul. 26th, 2004 11:18 am (UTC)
you, no matter what, will need a discaimer at the begining of the work stating that all matteirial created by *blah* belongs to *blah*.

and a letter to the distributer where the work is copywrited to never hurts. if you need help, let me know:)
Jul. 26th, 2004 12:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, I would definitely include a disclaimer. But a disclaimer doesn't legally protect you, apparently. I'll have to find out who exactly has the copyright and talk to them, if I want to do this, I imagine.
Jul. 26th, 2004 12:29 pm (UTC)
You're more involved with the music business than most people I know, so I think it's a worthy comment. :) Yes, I'll probably have to end up trying to talk to Sondheim's "people" and explain all kinds of stupid plot details if I want to do this--which is silly, considering I'll likely never have more than a few hundred readers, but I know they've got good reasons to be paranoid.