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I had the idea to transcribe and arrange the music from the musical Ride the Cyclone for a wind ensemble for my school. I got in contact with the company that owns the license (Broadway Licensing) to ask about being able to do this, and they said I would have to buy rights to the entire musical to do this. However, I know that you can cover songs with a mechanical license that pays royalties to the original owner, however I'm not intending to perform it for profit (or perform it in general, that's still up in the air).

Am I within my rights to arrange it as a cover for non-profit?

EDIT: I got in contact with one of the creators, and they said for this specific project (arranging a medley), it's fine so long as it's non-profit.

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    This is a good question, but borders on asking for legal advice. Also, have you searched for related questions? It seems to me that this sort of topic has come up here before and there is additional risk of this being closed as a duplicate. (I see a couple viable candidates on the right as I type this...) I would encourage you to do a little research, and if you don't find specifically what you are looking for, narrow the question down to something not included in other similar questions, and make it a generic question about the law. Jun 9, 2023 at 16:37
  • @MichaelHall "but borders on asking for legal advice". Sorry I'm new here, but isn't the whole point of this site to get legal advice? Jun 13, 2023 at 6:52
  • @stickynotememo See law.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/221/…
    – Lag
    Jun 13, 2023 at 7:23

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Am I within my rights to arrange it as a cover for non-profit?

I'm not sure about that, but I do know that Broadway Licensing isn't the right source for your license. They told you you'd have to license the whole show, but they seem to have forgotten to tell you that if you do that you also have to peform the whole show. From their FAQ:

Can I change or cut language in the script?

In order to change or remove any language, you must receive prior permission from Broadway Licensing. If you cannot perform the musical without such changes, you should not hold auditions until such permissions have been granted. Please send an email to [email protected] with the details of the changes you are interested in making. We will respond as quickly as possible.

It sounds as though whoever you spoke with didn't really know what they were talking about. The folks over at Music Theatre International seem to have a much better handle on the situation. Their website describes the difference between the licensing model for a theatrical production and that for a single song:

Grand Rights vs. Small Rights:

The rights that MTI is able to grant under our contracts with the authors are limited to "Grand Rights." Grand Rights cover the right to present the show, in its entirety, on stage. These rights do not include performance of a single song or medleys ("Small Rights"), videotaping, use of a logo or merchandising. In some instances, MTI has separately negotiated representation of additional rights, but those are administered on a show-by-show basis.

"Small Rights" is a term used to cover performances of individual songs in a concert or cabaret-type setting. There are three major agencies that control these rights in the U.S.: SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers), ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Author and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) Depending upon the songs that are being performed, licenses may be required from one, two or all three of these organizations for a single presentation. Most schools, churches, restaurants and clubs pay an annual fee to obtain a "blanket license" from these licensing agencies that covers the "small rights" use of all music in their respective catalogues for the year. Note that these blanket licenses DO NOT permit dramatic performances of songs. The songs can be performed only in cabaret style. While it is sometimes difficult to draw a distinction between dramatic and non-dramatic performances, a dramatic performance usually involves using a song to tell a story or as part of a story or plot. A blanket license permits neither the use of dialogue from the show nor sets, costumes and/or choreography that invoke the original show.

In general, you need permission to make an arrangement and you need permission to perform it. Whether you're making money or not may affect the likelihood of being given permission, and it may affect the amount of the license fee, or it may not. Copyright does not exist to prevent you from making money with other people's compositions; it exists to ensure that the composers get to make money -- or decide for themselves not to -- when you perform their music.

Your school may already have a blanket license with for example ASCAP that would cover a public performance of the song. At least now you should have a better idea of where to look for it.

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  • Does the blanket license allow making derivative works like arrangements?
    – Barmar
    Jun 13, 2023 at 20:57

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