Festival Copyright Compliance

By  GALA Expert 

 June 27, 2023 

Questions about copyright, licensing or other documentation? Start with this info! If you still need help, contact Artistic Director 411 Advisor Kathleen Hansen: artisticadvisor@galachoruses.org.

A stylized line drawing of a bird made from a treble clef, and staff paper


Published Music

Verify that you have legally purchased copies of this song for every person on stage (singers, instrumentalists, ASL interpreter, conductor, etc). You must be able to provide one of the following in order to perform the song at Festival 2024:

  1. A receipt showing purchase date, title of the song and number of scores.
  2. OR Physical representation of the scores previously purchased or from your chorus library
    • Attach a color photograph of published scores with the title page and number of scores clearly visible (see example).
    • OR, a photo showing each chorus member with a published score in hand!

Custom Arrangements of an Existing Song

Attach a signed license to arrange from the copyright holder—typically the publisher of the song. Include license expiration dates if applicable.

Any custom arrangement performed at Festival must include documentation that verifies that your chorus has permission (or a license) to arrange. This is an area where some choruses are particularly culpable with regard to copyright compliance. To protect your own liability and that of GALA Choruses, licenses will be monitored carefully and there will be no exceptions.

Choruses that are not able to produce valid licensing for custom arrangements will not be allowed to perform the song on stage.


  • Permission to arrange may be granted ONLY by the copyright holder or their authorized agent.
  • If an arranger tells you they have authorization to sell you their arrangement, ask for written confirmation or contact the copyright holder directly to verify.
  • If you don’t know where to start, look at the copyright information on the score or contact the music publisher directly.
  • Permission to arrange may be secured directly from a songwriter if you know them personally and they control the copyright to their music.
  • Sheet Music Plus has an easy option to publish arrangements and secure licensing: https://www.arrangeme.com.
  • Permission to arrange does not grant permission to share the arrangement/score with another other chorus.

For questions on fair use of parody review this article. Note that it is not a “parody” to simply change the lyrics of a song. In order to qualify for fair use, the new work needs to be a reaction to or related to the content of the original work.

Public Domain

Obtain documentation to verify that the song is in the public domain. Submit a copy of an original score showing the appropriate publication date prior to 1924, or an academic source showing the same.

Petrucci Library at imslp.org has a searchable database. Attach a screen print or save a PDF of the webpage showing that the song you are performing is in the public domain.


  • Some scores listed in the Petrucci Library are not considered public domain in the US. These are noted on their website as Non-PD US.
  • A song in the public domain may be arranged. In this case, the arrangement may NOT be in the public domain. Attach permission from the arranger.
  • Just because a composer has been dead for 70 years does NOT make their music public domain. Ownership of a song can be assigned to a living person or organization/company that continues after the death of the composer.

Use of Tablets on Stage at Festival

Choruses may use tablets containing choral scores on stage at Festival 2024 as long as that chorus has purchased, or licensed scores for each singer.

Commission, Manuscript or Unpublished Score

Verify that you have permission from the copyright holder to print scores and to perform the song. If you commissioned the piece, your commission contract may be attached assuming the contract includes permission to perform the song. Otherwise request a letter from the copyright holder of the song (see template below).

If your commission contract does not outline rights for the lyrics you must also include permission from the copyright holder of the text.

Permission Template for a Manuscript or Unpublished Score
NOTE: this document does not include permission to arrange a song. An arrangement license must be procured from the publisher or copyright holder.

To: Chorus Name
Date: Date

This letter verifies that I am the copyright holder for the song Title-of-Song composed by Composer-Name. I grant Chorus-Name permission to print scores and perform the song listed above at the GALA Choruses Festival, July 10-14, 2024 in Minneapolis, MN.

[Add if applicable: I also waive any Grand Rights and grant permission for Chorus-Name to add dialogue, pantomime, choreography, stage action, or visual representation as a part of their performance of this song.]

Name of Copyright Holder: XX
Electronic Signature: XX

Email contact: XX
Phone XX
Mailing address: XX

Grand Rights

Grand Rights: The performance of music from a musical, ballet, opera or other dramatization which includes costuming, choreography, depictions of the show’s characters, or the development of a story may require Grand Rights.

A grand rights license is only available from the copyright holder, which is typically a music publisher, or in the case of musicals, a theatrical licensing agent. Contact the copyright holder or publisher if you are unsure whether a song requires Grand Rights.

For more information on Grand Rights:

NOTE: GALA staff will review all song list submissions. When the information provided has been accepted we will change the approval status to “approved” in the Integra Planner. If there is a question that needs to be resolved before it can be approved, we will convey the question in the “approval notes.”
If proof of compliance with all copyright requirements cannot be obtained your chorus will not be allowed to perform that song at Festival.

Chorus Introductory Video

Your chorus introduction video may only contain music and images that are in the public domain, unless you have obtained permission for any copyrighted images or music and provided evidence of that permission when you submit your video. A license to use music in video is called a “sync license” and is different from a license to perform or a license to arrange.

Sync rights must be obtained directly from the copyright holder.

Optional sources for music on your video:

  • A composition you have commissioned. Request rights from the composer.
  • Music licensed through Creative Commons or other shared music sites: read the requirements:

NOTE: performing or recording a song does not give your chorus the right to use it in a video.