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What are the rules for reading someone else's poem


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What are the rules (Fiverr or legal) for reading a published poem as a gig? Do you have to have permission to sell the reading of any poem? I attended a great poetry reading by Robert Bly years ago that has been for sale ever since and includes one or two poems each from a dozen different poets… David Whyte sells talks in which he recites poems from memory with myriad sources. (It should help sell that poet’s work and further their visibility)

Is it OK to sell the performing or reading of a single poem, while giving proper credit to the author, as a gig?

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I’m not an attorney, but have been in radio, tv and voice over for decades and use the services of attorneys regularly. I have been on both ends of “cease and desist” orders.

Using someone else’s works without permission is wrong and opens the door for various actions. It is not to “help sell that poet’s work and further their visibility”, it is stealing, and improper use.

There are authors and poets whose works have entered the public domain, and others do use all or parts of those works in whole or in derivative works, and even then, there are rules and procedures as well to avoid conflict.

My policy is always to advise students and clients that if you didn’t write or create it, and can prove you wrote or created it, and have the rights to distribute, record and/or perform it… don’t.

You really should consult a knowledgeable attorney to advise you on a course of action.

Good luck!


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I could go on and on about copyright infringement and improper use. In fact I often do go on and on in the college courses I teach!!

Every day, I hear and read so much from so many misinformed people about using photographs, graphics, music, web content, computer code, quotes, whatever. It’s mind boggling how people think they can just use something that they had no hand in creating, or have not purchased or leased rights to use, or at least have written permission to use.

In my tv years, I had a musician tell me it was okay for him to perform a song on my tv show (that he didn’t write or have permission to perform), because it was free advertising for the artist that did write it and perform it! Where did he come up with this, and does he truly believe that?)

I had a musician perform all his own original music on my tv show and later put together a dvd of his performance from the show and was selling it on his web site and at his live performances. He hit the roof, when I explained to him that while he owns the songs, as the producer I own the tv performance and the recording and furthermore, the tv station owns the broadcast rights! Apparently he didn’t read the 6 pages of forms I had him sign before filming began.

Last month I had a client ask me to use not one, but two Elvis Presley songs in a production we were doing. He thought because Elvis is dead that anyone could use the music. Poor Elvis. He probably didn’t own or have the rights to a lot of the stuff he recorded.

In my voice over ebook and in the courses I teach, I can’t say it enough. Always seek the advice of a good business and entertainment lawyer and accountant. They’re worth every dollar you pay.


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