How to get permission to use established characters for a play

Question: I have written three plays for a group that does dinner theatre for fundraising, strictly amateur and small scale. I do it as a creative outlet for fun, no intentions of attempting to publish. They have been very well received but I am not getting too excited, they were after all done for free. I am a freelance illustrator by trade and am very conscious of copyright infringement. I also work with seniors and a couple have expressed a wish to participate in our productions which led to an idea for a new play using beloved characters from a TV show enjoyed in their youth, "Little Rascals" Would it be possible to get permission to use these characters?

Answer: Oh, that's a thorny issue, and I confess I am not an expert on copyright law.

That said, it seems to me there was a film not too many years ago based on The Little Rascals, which suggests to me that someone with money still owns copyright over the characters and will probably be protective of them.

If you were writing fan fiction and not charging money for it, you probably wouldn't need to worry. But if you are charging admission and advertising those characters, even if it's for charity, it could be a big problem. Can you imagine UNICEF wanting to do a show starring Mickey Mouse and Disney just ignoring it?

Okay, sometimes small amateur groups get away without paying royalties or getting permission, but it's a risky business and not really fair to the creator of the work being copied.

If you want to get permission, you would need to find out who currently owns the copyright and ask them. Hopefully, they won't charge you a big fee.

Here's an article by someone who went through the process (unsuccessfully). There are some resources mentioned that could get you started...

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero