About Licensing

Licensing, Perusals, Guidelines, and More

We've gathered some useful information regarding licensing, perusals, and important additional guidelines. 

What Exactly Is Licensing?

After creating a show, theatre writers copyright their work, protecting their ownership of it and allowing them — and ONLY them or their duly appointed representatives (in this case, MTI) — to decide who may perform the show, where it may be performed, how it may be performed and how much will be charged for the privilege of using their work. This dramatic performance right (or "Grand Right") is known as an "intellectual property right"; the show is the “Copyright” or "intellectual property" of the authors. Copyright is a valuable right that is protected under federal and international copyright laws.

On the authors’ behalf, MTI grants a license to produce the show and collects a fee, known as a "Royalty," for this license for all performances. Built in to each and every performance license is specific language that governs how the copyrighted work must be presented. MTI's responsibilities include enforcing copyright law as it pertains to Grand Rights (e.g., prohibiting changes to the show, monitoring unlicensed productions, etc.), as well as protecting certain productions from competition in geographical markets (which is why performance rights to a certain show may be unavailable or "Restricted").

Basic Licensing fees Explained

In licensing musicals, MTI charges three basic fees: royalty, rental, and security fee.

  • Royalty Fee:
    Royalties are the way authors are paid for the use of their show (their "intellectual property").  The authors of a musical may include the book writer (who writes the dialogue), the composer (who writes the music), and the lyricist (who writes the words to the music). Their right to be paid for use of their work is guaranteed by the copyright laws of this and other countries and is the basis of theatrical licensing.
  • Rental Fee:
    Rental fees are charged for the materials we supply to your theatre organization in conjunction with a performance license. These materials include the performance materials (scripts, scores, etc.) and the MTI Production Resources. (Note: MTI’s materials are created and provided to licensees for use solely in conjunction with a performance license.)
  • Security Fee:
    Because rental materials remain MTI’s property and must be returned at the conclusion of your production, we collect a security fee on each performance license, which is refunded upon the return of the materials. Any shipping, damage, or lost materials fees are deducted from the fee.
Licensing an MTI Musical

Are you brand-new to licensing, or need a reminder?

Everything you need to know about doing business with MTI (from becoming a customer to licensing your musical) is explained here.

Perusals: What are they and how to order

A “Perusal” is an advanced copy of the libretto or script to determine if a show is a good fit for your theater and audiences. To order a perusal copy, you must first become a MyMTI customer. If you’re an existing customer, click the Request Perusal button on the show page and you’ll be taken to your MyMTI Account to complete your order. Ordering a perusal is a great way to familiarize yourself with the material to make sure you are ready to license.

We offer both e-perusals and hard copy perusals. 

E-Perusals are digital versions of our Libretto/Vocal Books that you can access online or with our  free app the MTI Reader. (Available for Apple devices). When you request an E-Perusal you will receive an email that links you to our web browser portal (reader.mtishows.com), where you can view the entire Libretto/Vocal Book for the selected musicals you request. E-perusals can be sent to up to 6 emails per request. The first email is $5 for the perusal and each subsequent email is only $2.

Hardcopy Perusal Packages
If you’re uncertain about choosing a show to license, ordering a Perusal Package can help you make an informed decision. A Perusal Package contains up to three shows' librettos (so you can “peruse” the scripts before you make your decision).

You will be billed a $20 shipping/handling fee for each Perusal Package (up to three (3) titles per package).

You may keep the perusal for six (6) weeks. If you need to keep it longer, you must contact MTI for an extension or you will be billed a replacement fee for the perusal materials. ALL PERUSALS, Broadway Junior titles, must be returned to MTI.

NOTE: Receipt of a perusal does not necessarily indicate that a title is available for production. Make sure you have received a valid Performance License before proceeding with any announcements, advertising or production plans.

Important Additional Licensing Guidelines

Making Changes:
You are not permitted to make changes. During rehearsals, directors or producers may believe that some changes are required to make the show work in their theatres. They may feel making "minor adjustments" to a show (such as changing the gender of a character, changing the name of a town to give it local significance, adding songs that appeared in the movie version of the musical, etc.) is inconsequential to its integrity, or they believe they have the right to "experiment" with the authors' intentions as an expression of their own artistic vision.

This is not the case.

When you are granted a performance license by MTI, by law, the show you license must be performed "as is." You have no right to make any changes at all unless you have obtained prior written permission from MTI to do so. Otherwise, any changes violate the authors' rights under federal and international copyright law. Without prior permission from MTI, your actions may subject you to liability – not only to the authors, but also to us – for violating federal law and for breaching the terms of your license agreement, which clearly forbids you to make any changes or deletions.

Occasionally, new versions of shows are created when the authors or someone the authors have approved, reconceives the piece. However, only the authors have the right to make these revisions, and they rarely grant third parties permission to do so. If you feel you must experiment with reconceiving a show, there are many works already in the public domain (e.g., Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan) that are no longer protected by U.S copyright law.

It's important to remember that under federal copyright law, not only can the director or producer who decided to change the work be held liable, but the entire production staff, cast and crew – even the owner of the building – can be held liable, whether or not they knew they were part of a willful violation of copyright law.

Dress Rehearsals, Contest Excerpts and More:
Any presentation of a musical licensed by MTI that takes place in front of an assembly of people (no matter how few) is considered royalty-bearing under the law, whether or not admission is charged. This can include "invited" dress rehearsals or contest excerpts. A valid performance license is required for all of these performances. If a group has any questions as to whether or not a performance requires a royalty, they should contact their MTI licensing representative.

On a related topic, MTI is occasionally approached by a group looking either to a) create a revue based on a composer's body of work, or around a theme (e.g., "love songs") or b) take existing songs from shows and put them into a new dramatic context. Neither of these examples would be covered under a "small rights" license since their thematic nature or imposed storyline would create what is considered a "dramatico-musical work" under federal copyright law. Generally, these types of requests must be denied due to the complex issues surrounding "merged works" (musicals where collaborators, estates, trustees, producers, etc. all share in the royalty pool). 

The Internet:
Many people mistakenly believe that because something appears on the internet, it is authorized or free to use.  For example, some people have illegally uploaded MTI scripts and orchestral parts to certain file-sharing websites, making them available for use by others. In other cases, groups have posted unauthorized videos of their productions of MTI shows. Such actions not only violate the terms of their MTI licenses but also constitute an infringement of the authors’ copyright. “Other people do it” is not a defense to copyright infringement. Be sure to adhere strictly to the terms of your license and always use the authorized MTI materials in your production.

Logos, like other elements of a production, are covered by copyright and trademark law. Generally, the rights to an original logo used on Broadway will be controlled by the artist or, in some cases, by the producer if the artist produced the logo on a "for hire" basis. Using the original logo without obtaining permission is prohibited. Many organizations design their own logos, and MTI also has obtained rights to license certain logos. Logos can legally be used in conjunction with the promotion of a show – on posters, programs and flyers – but organizations must be sure that such logos are “original” and do not violate the rights of third parties. If an organization is looking to create merchandise, such as t-shirts, mugs, key chains, etc. that will be sold to the public, a separate licensing agreement must be obtained, which can be difficult. As soon as someone begins making money based on the "name" of a show, then the author(s) become entitled to a share of the profit, and also have the power to control whether or not such merchandise may be disseminated.

Video Recording:
Copyright law gives authors the exclusive right to control the reproduction of their work. When MTI grants a license for a live stage production of a show, that license does not include the right to record it as well, since the authors retain the exclusive right to decide when or if their work is recorded in any way. Even a recording made for classroom use, as a personal memento or as an archival school record violates the authors' separate right to reproduce their work.

Unlicensed Productions:
If you use another person’s intellectual property illegally without properly compensating the owner, you are, in essence, robbing the owner of his or her livelihood.  Besides being unethical, presenting a show without a performance license is illegal and subject to criminal punishment.  In the internet age, it’s very easy to track down unlicensed productions.  Make sure your organization has a license agreement before starting rehearsals.

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.

Licensing Keywords

A Copyright is the exclusive permission to license and otherwise exploit a piece of "intellectual property" (a literary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc.)

E-perusals are digital, searchable versions of our printed librettos that are delivered via email.

Grand Rights
A Grand Right is a dramatic performing right that allows organizations to present a show, in its entirety, on stage. Grand Rights can encompass several copyrights (e.g., the libretto, the music, the choreography, etc.), and no one of these copyrights has greater rights than any other.

Intellectual Property
Intellectual Property is a work or invention that is the result of creativity (the shows in the MTI catalogue), to which one has the rights, and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc.

Performance License
A performance license is granted by MTI on behalf of our authors/rightsholders, allowing groups the “right” to produce the show. Built into each and every performance license is specific language that governs how the copyrighted work must be presented.

Perusals (sample librettos) and/or reference recordings can help you decide on the show you’d like to produce. A reference recording (although not a perfect match to the licensable musical) will give you the overall flavor of the show’s sound, and perusal librettos are the show in its entirety.

Production Resources
Production Resources are instructional, educational and production materials that make production easier and promote the use of musical theatre in the classroom and other educational settings.

Royalties are the fees paid to the creators of a show for the use of their work (their “intellectual property”). The authors of a musical may include the bookwriter (who writes the dialogue), the composer (who writes the music) and the lyricist (who writes the words to the music). Their right to be paid for the use of their work is guaranteed by the copyright laws of this and other countries, and is the basis of theatrical licensing.

Rental Fees
Rental fees are charged for the materials we supply to your theatre organization in conjunction with a performance license. These materials include scripts, scores, orchestra parts, etc.

A restriction may be put into place when a national tour or large professional production of a particular title is taking place in a specific community or region, making it unavailable for other theatres to perform for a specified amount of time.  Because restrictions may be put in place or lifted at any given moment, it is always important for an organization to obtain a license offer and send the signed contract back to MTI with payment to "hold" their rights before announcing a production. If an organization has a valid license and a show becomes restricted, in most cases, MTI will be able to honor that previous commitment, even though rights for other organizations in the same area may subsequently be denied.

Security Fee
Because rental materials remain MTI’s property and must be returned at the conclusion of your production, MTI collects a security fee on each performance license, which is refunded upon the satisfactory return of the materials. Any shipping, damage or lost materials fees are deducted from the fee.

Small Rights
Small Rights is a term used to cover performances of individual songs in concert or a cabaret-type setting.