Everyone has suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic but few sectors have suffered as profoundly as the arts.

With theatres, music venues and cinemas closed for months and social distancing measures meaning it’s not financially viable for many to continue, culture has hit something of a quagmire.

Perhaps the only thing that has kept culture alive in these strange times is the rise in popularity of streaming performances.

There have been thousands of performances streamed on everything – from Zoom to YouTube – and taking in everything from comedy shows to live opera and everything in-between.

But for those performers who are used to the specific insurance implications of live performance, what steps should they be taking to ensure they’re covered when streaming online?

Some background on copyright

With live performance largely culled, thousands of musicians, festival organisers and theatres have been using digital streaming to fill in the gaps in their income left by the performance drought. But it’s worth noting that even in this modern digital environment, songwriter, composer and publisher rights remain the same, as do broader intellectual copyright laws.

So, if you’re using images, soundtrack snippets or any “borrowed” material to accompany your broadcast, you’ll need permission.  Music and lyrics, of course, remain copyrighted until 70 years after the death of the author, and streaming and broadcast open you up to global scrutiny.

As always, you must pay close attention to the creative assets you’re drawing on, and that you have the right insurance in place in case of any unwitting infringement of copyright.

User-generated content

Any one-off, live-streamed performance is legally defined as ‘user-generated content’ and to communicate this content legally to the public, you’ll need some kind of license.

Thankfully, many of the major streaming platforms have existing agreements with the PRS which means all royalties (to the original author) are arranged for you.

Not all works will be covered though, so always be careful when you’re using arrangements of original works online.

If in doubt, contact the publisher. If you go ahead without accessing the right legal channels then your content could be taken down or even worse, legal action could be taken against you.

Media liability

Even if you are using your own material, there’s a chance that somebody might perceive your work to be plagiaristic or libellous. In this instance, media liability insurance will cover you for many potential exposures.

For example, if you accidentally use trademarked material during your livestream or even have an original idea for a stream that later turns out to be not-all-that original, you need cover.

It’s a veritable minefield out there and in a post-pandemic world it’s getting even more competitive and even more brutal.

Virtual events and performances are surely here to stay – with their incredible reach giving access to global audiences.

But as arts organisations adapt their activities, it’s important to fine-tune your insurance to reflect this.

Online performances carry some of the same risks as film and TV broadcasts – media liability may need to be higher in the insurance mix, as well as cyber liability.

It’s also important to make sure third parties like your videographer have right insurance so that your liabilities are ring-fenced.

In such an environment you must know how to navigate these exposed and rocky waters and that you have the right kind of insurance cover behind you.

Image: evrymmnt / Shutterstock.com

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