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iPad for Music Distribution

Hello all!
Our High School is going to a 1:1 iPad program next year (which I am VERY excited about), and I am tech-savvy, but i am unclear on the legal side of the copyright laws of digital music.  I, ideally, would love for all the students to have the music as PDFs on their iPad so they can mark them up and have it all in one place.  Is it simply "good enough" to buy enough original copies for them, and then distribute them digital copies?  That seems like there is lots of infringement there...  What is the easiest (and legal) way to have their music on their iPad?
Thank you!
on May 14, 2014 5:35am
This is a complex issue.  I suggest that you contact the legal department for your school system and have them look into it.  That way, they will be aware of what you are doing and will have a legal basis for it.
Because copyright is so complicated, you will get a range of opinion on how to do this (if at all).  The only safe thing is to do what the school system's attorney is prepared to defend.  Be ready for the attorney to tell you that it's impossible.
Good luck!
~David Schildkret
on May 14, 2014 8:19pm
David is partially correct.  It is illegal to duplicate and disseminate any copyrighted work without the consent of the rights holder.  That is the sum and substance of Title 17, which is the United Sates Copyright Act.  Therefore, scanning in sheet music is an act of duplication, and sending out to students as PDF's is dissemination.  If this is done without the consent of the rights holder, it is a per se infringement of the copyright.  Even if your school district attorney would tell you that it is permissible, it is not.  The Copyright Act of the United States is available as a free download and you can access that by clicking this link
Great question.
Best regards,
Mark Greenburg
President of Tresóna
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 16, 2014 3:03am
Dear Jaclyn,
As a composer, I'm quite happy for my music to be distributed this way: I sell my PDFs as "unlimited copies", so you can make as many copies as you like. Copies on iPad would be included in that. (If you'd like to order music you can be sure of being legal, then you can purchase my pieces at and I'll happily include a specific disclaimer with your PDF so that you can use it on iPads too).
I think that if you bought a licence for a digital version to print as many copies as you have iPads, and used iPad copies *instead* of printing copies, that would comply with the spirit of the law.
on May 16, 2014 6:14am
Mark is partially correct. His explanation of the legalities is spot on, but in the real world things are a bit more nuanced. If you have purchased sufficient legal copies for your ensemble and then choose to display them on iPads for ease in performance, it is hard to imagine any publisher who would choose to hassle you about it. And that's what it would require, i.e., the actual copyright owner would have to a] be aware of your technical violation (unlikely in the extreme) and b] feel that he had something to gain by bringing an action against you (ain't gonna happen). Given that you have legal copies in your library, the copyright owner would be unable to demonstrate that he had suffered any damage or loss as a result of your infringement. No publisher has the time for such pointless activities, nor would he want the bad press and damage to his reputation which would result.
So, here's an example of a law which has failed to keep up with the changing technology and is therefore widely ignored in the real world. If you bring your school's legal beagles into it they're likely to err on the side of caution. On the other hand if you ask them to produce an example of a case where someone who owned legal copies was sued for using tablet computers instead, it's extremely unlikely that they will be able to do so.
Dan Gawthrop
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