Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Legal to Copy?

Hi folks! I am considering having my Jr. High ladies and HS ladies perform the same piece at seperate concerts but during the same season. I want to use it for the main JR High concert, whereas the HS ladies would only perform it for competition. My question is, since they will be performed at different times, do I need to purchase copies for ALL the Jr. High ladies as well as the HS ladies or can I legally make copies for rehearsal purposes. As I write this, I have a feeling I will need to buy the copies--but I am a litle hazy on this aspect of copyright law. Thanks for your help!
Replies (9): Threaded | Chronological
on December 11, 2012 6:03am
You may not legally photocopy or in any other way reproduce the choral octavos, but both groups could use the same octavos for rehearsal purposes if logistically you can make that happen.
on December 11, 2012 1:27pm
Rachel:  Matthew is exactly right.  You are not legally REQUIRED to buy copies for each group, if you can work out the logistics of sharing.  But neither the law nor Fair Use allows you to make photocopies, period, for any reason except for emergency replacement of lost parts for which replacements have been ordered.  And it is illegal to perform from photocopies in any case.  If you want to stay within the letter of the law, making copies "for rehearsal purposes" simply ain't legal!
All the best,
P.S.  You aren't legally required to buy a separate copy for each singer, either, and if they can share music you'll only need half as many copies.
on December 12, 2012 9:09am
question for you John . . . I have a colleague in my district who plays the arrangement on a midi and prints out the "new" arrangement . . . they way this person does this includes part lines as well as accompaniment, which is a LITTLE different, presumably different enough to be a "new" arrangement.  I don't know the black-and-white of the law but I advised that this violates the SPIRIT of the law.  How much change has to occur to legalize this practice?
Another thought just came to me . . . same teacher has a yearly "Century of Song" and records the performance then sells copies to members as a fundraiser.  HUGE violation!  I have advised against this for YEARS, but since nothing ever happens, nobody ever listens.  How much trouble are we looking at?  School -- district?  It sends the wrong message to kids we are teaching, but it meets this teacher's needs to raise lots of money to go on trips.  Is it in my best interest to get involved?  Should I contact district officials?  I'm not looking to get anyone in trouble . . . I want us to stay OUT of trouble!
Thanks for your expert advice in advance!
Paul Townsend
. . . . just a right-brained music teacher
Phoenix, AZ
on December 12, 2012 12:05pm
Not an expert, just a musician who tries to keep up to date!  In fact most lawyers are not experts on the convolutions of copyright law.
Your first question is a little complicated, but you didn't say WHERE he got the MIDI of "the arrangement."  However, there is a provision in Fair Use that legally purchased copies may be "simplified or modified" to make them performable, which automatically makes it a gray area subject to interpretation.  How much is Fair Use and how much isn't?  Neither the law nor Fair Use goes into detail.  And anyone who quotes a certain percentage is making it up!!
Your second question is one that entirely too many people do ignore.  Recording and selling copies would be perfectly legal IF the mandatory mechanical license were acquired and paid for.  The Harry Fox Agency handles that, and makes it really easy.  (One CAN, of course, contact every copyright owner indiviidually and ask to be excused from paying the statutory fee, but who has enough time to do that?!!!!)
But yes, your colleague is risking getting the school, its administration, the school district, and even the Board of Education in trouble with the law by NOT following proper procedures and paying the doggone license fees!!  (Bottom line:  he is using someone else's property for commercial advantage, and the law is VERY clear.)  And those who are in positons to face a lawsuit DO deserve to be told about the danger. 
The most famous case was, of course, the judgement against the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago for copyright infringement many years ago, which cost them several MILLION dollars in penalties, although that involved illegal copying and distribution rather than illegal recording and distribution, but the law is SO clear on this (and there is NO exception for educational use under Fair Use) that it's pretty much your duty to inform those who may stand in the line of fire about the infringement.  And then leave it up to them, but suggest that they check with the district's attorney.  It isn't your problem (but inform them in WRITING and keep a copy just in case!).
All the best,
Applauded by an audience of 3
on December 12, 2012 12:43pm
on August 24, 2014 7:02pm
This resource targets educators.  Is there any difference in the law for non-profit community chorus? 
on December 12, 2012 2:19pm
Dear Paul,
Your scenario #1- so he plays it out and, voila, HE has a new arrangement? So that means he has only bought the one copy he used to do his MIDI thing and then photocopies HIS magical version for people to learn from and sing off of?  Wow, what a jerk. Either way he is being dishonest and breaking the law. And if he is claiming to have a "New Arrangment", did he get written permission to arrange from the copyright holder of the original piece? I doubt it, therefore a clear violation of law. Any music publisher whose works he is ripping off would love to know which pieces in their catalog he has done this to-  I'm sure they would love to send him and his school district a nice threatening letter, which they can do without mentioning your name.
Your associate is no better than a common thief- it's like shoplifting in a mom and pop store without security equipment. He's pretty sure he won't get caught, so he steals what he wants, never caring that he IS stealing the intellectual and physical property of many other people and breaking federal law over and over again. But, hey, if you have no ethics or moral code, I guess it doesn't matter, right? And because he seems to have these cute little ways of doing things, it suggests to me that he knows darn well what the law is- he's just inventing cute ways to do what he does and explain it away.
Most likely his terms of employment forbid this behavior, and it's likely these copyright infringments will at some point be noticed by his students - they're not stupid. As John Howell states, he is putting himself, his school, and his district in the crosshairs of a lawsuit, and actually don't assume no one will bring suit. Recently two choral music publishers threatened suit in two similar instances and the offending organizations admitted guilt and settled quickly out of court. The publishers are becoming more proactive about this thing.
I suggest you do some of what John Howell suggested, but I think you should be more agressive overall than what John has suggested. Consider telling him you are about to take action. Try to scare him out of his blatant activity. And you could certainly contact the Music Publishers Association with details of the activity as well as any individual publishers whose music has been used illiegally.
As a professional composer/arranger who follows the law when I need to gain proper permissions, this whole thing galls me. My income would be far larger if people would pay for mechanical licenses (and peopel should not assume composers and publishers are greedy- we often grant things for free- especially for worthwhile causes).
By the way, there are countless violations of performance permission aspects of copyright law going on all over the country, especially when groups of any kind, including schools, charge a ticket price or pay a guest adult perfomer on the program, both of which cancel the school's Educational Fair Use exemption (I bring this up just to mention it, your post did not mention this).
Venting, and hoping you have the determinatioin to do the right thing and can get your colleague, some way or another, back on the straight and narrow. If you can do this, let us know - I will be very happy to hear of it and very proud of you.
Paul Carey
Applauded by an audience of 1
on December 11, 2012 3:25pm
Thanks folks. Very helpful!
on December 12, 2012 1:43pm
Rachel, thanks for doing the right thing and asking for help on what is legal, ethical, etc. I am so happy that it matters enough to you. Now if we could get Paul Townsend's associate on the right track, one way or another!
Paul Carey
  • You must log in or register to be able to reply to this message.