Performers' rights are a type of intellectual property right. They are related to copyright but are independent from the copyright that may exist in a work that may be performed.
Performers' rights are provided for in Part IX of the Copyright Act 1994. The Act gives performers limited rights to control the exploitation of their performances where they haven’t given consent.
Protected performances are defined in the Act by reference to the main categories of works protected by copyright - dramatic performances, musical performances, readings and recitations of literary works and performances of a variety act.
Exceptions to performers' rights
Activities that aren’t covered include performances by students or staff of an educational establishment, news reading or other information delivery, sporting activities, and participation in a performance by members of an audience.
When performers’ rights are infringed
Performers' rights are infringed if a performance, or a substantial part of a performance, is exploited without the performer's consent. The Act distinguishes between the exploitation of live performances and those that have been filmed or recorded.
A number of activities constitute infringement of a performer's rights in live performances, including the recording, broadcast or inclusion in a cable programme of a live performance. A performer's rights are also infringed when a recording of a performance that has been made without the performer's consent is broadcast, shown, played, copied, imported or sold.
No collective rights for performances
Performers' rights arise in respect of each performance. The first owner of a performance is always the individual performer. There is no concept of group ownership in the Act and members of a group do not have collective rights in a group's performance.
Assignment of performers’ rights
There is no provision for the assignment of performers' rights. In practice, producers require performers to consent to the exploitation of their performances. Where consent is obtained, a producer will be in much the same position as they would have been if a performer had transferred those rights by assignment.
Performers’ rights review
In 2001 the government released a discussion paper on performers’ rights, looking at whether changes were needed to respond to digital technology and new practices.
- Discussion paper – Performers’ Rights [231 KB PDF]
- Cabinet Paper – Performers’ Rights Review [136 KB PDF]