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Copyright Requests

If you set text which is still in copyright you need permission from the copyright holder for the work to be performed publicly and also to reprint the text in any program booklet. Here is a plain and simple example of such a letter with some comments.

Don’t be daunted; these requests can sometimes take five or six letters back and forth to sort out. Start with basic information only, if the publisher wants to know more they’ll ask you for it

Your address      

Copyright holder's address

Look in the front of the book you found the text in. You may need to make a   phone call to the publisher to find the correct address. You are looking for the   Permissions Department. n.b. the author is not necessarily the copyright holder.


Dear Permissions Department,

I am a composer and am writing to ask for permission to set to music and have performed French Cheese’s poems ‘Morbier’ and 'Reblochon' published by Fromage Press in Cheeses Oh Cheeses ISBN 000000007

These settings would form part of a work for soprano and orchestra to be premiered at the "Tanglewood Cheese Festival" in March 2008.

If you have a website you could add: 

If you would like some background information and a biography, these can be found on my website:

If you don't have a website you might give one or two sentences about yourself:  "I am currently completing my Master’s degree in Composition at The Boston Conservatory and would like to have this setting performed as part of my graduate recital."

If you use Facebook or MySpace make sure your page is appropriate for directing  a professional organization toward.

Please let me know if you need any further information. Thank you for your assistance


Burt Dirt

A typical contract is an agreement for you to forward or assign 50% of all royalties you earn for this piece (or section of a piece). For stage works so-called ‘Grand Rights’ are negotiated directly between the producer and the composer/author, and are not collected and administered by ASCAP or BMI. 

Some copyright holders may want to charge you a nominal fee to use a text, some may want to lease you the work a year at a time but this is most commonly for plays, not poems. 

You might want to consider joining either ASCAP or BMI in order to receive royalties. However, royalties are not paid for works performed in educational institutions.

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