PantSoc could owe as much as £240 to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
The pantomime adaptation of J M Barry’s Peter Pan performed by the society earlier this month was not licensed by Great Ormond Street, the children’s charity that holds copyright over the popular story.
Though the script was re-written by Katie Lambert and Helen White, the society still needed to acquire a licence for its performance, and is liable to pay royalties to the charity.
An official from Samuel French, the theatre agents who handle licenses for productions of Peter Pan, said, “it’s somewhere in the region of £80 per performance”.
“With Peter Pan, all of that royalty is going to Great Ormond Street Hospital, so obviously by the royalty itself you’re already giving the money to a charity. But of course if you want to do any extra fundraising then you can.”
Simon Lewis, PantSoc Chair, said the lack of payment to Great Ormond Street Hospital was an “accidental oversight”.
The society charged £4.50 per ticket for students and £7 for non-students, and received large audiences in three performances of Peter Pan in Central Hall, from January 31 to February 2.
Copyright for the children’s story first ran out in 1987, but a special amendment to the law, proposed by the then Prime Minister Lord Callaghan, was passed.
According to the charity’s website, this gives Great Ormond Street Hospital “the unique right to royalties from stage performances of Peter Pan (and any adaptation of the play) as well as from publications, audio books, ebooks, radio broadcasts and films of the story of Peter Pan, in perpetuity.
“Over the years, it’s been enormously valuable – not only in financial terms but also as a symbol and icon – and has brought significant income to the hospital.”
The charity has its own website devoted to Peter Pan, and under a tab labelled “copyright” describes the obligations for Peter Pan productions.
In a YSTV interview before the production, Lambert said, “It’s quite a lot of the original, it has quite a lot of quotes, but I think that you probably wouldn’t notice them unless you’re a big Peter Pan Freak like me.”
“It’s supposed to be playing on the original, twisting it a bit. Obviously it’s massively indebted to Disney, so it’s a bit of everything really.”
Lewis said, “We were not previously aware of this due to the unusual nature of the copyright surrounding the character of Peter Pan, and as a result we are now working with YUSU and contacting the relevant department at Great Ormond Street Hospital to ensure any liabilities are met. If it is the case that payment is due, of course we will honour that debt. Where applicable, we would pay for rights to shows, but in practice that is not applicable for the vast majority of our performances.”
Chris West, YUSU Activities Officer, said, “Great Ormond Street Hospital have been contacted, and we are awaiting a reply from them to find out what can be done retrospectively to cover any liabilities that have arisen.”
Lewis said, “I can assure you that this will have no knock on effects for future productions by the society, and our Summer productions will continue as normal. Of course as a society we shall now be extra conscious of any rights that we need to pay for anything to do with future productions.”
Lambert said, “I think it’s a shame really cos panto is the only society who is not charity based in definition, but donates to rag every year.”
PantSoc routinely puts on three productions each year, and in 2012 was awarded Society of the Year by YUSU.