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I have a friend that teaches elementary music. She is doing a 1st and 2nd grade original play that includes a lot of nursery rhyme songs but also bits and pieces of popular songs - "What Does the Fox Say", "Cool Kids", "Singing In The Rain", "Lollipop Kids", "Surfing USA", "Spoonful of Sugar" get the picture. I'm sure the nursery rhymes are public domain but does she need to get permission to use a portion of the popular songs? If so, where does she get that? Does it take long to get the permission? Her show is about five weeks away.
Thank you!!
Replies (7): Threaded | Chronological
on March 19, 2015 10:59am
If there are versions of these songs in public school music textbook/CDs, purchased by her district, then the district and the textbook company have purchased the rights for school use.  Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and Scott-Foresman are the two major music text publishers.  The same would apply to many curriculum materials purchased from school music suppliers like West Music.
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on April 21, 2015 9:54am
Are the kids singing to the original songs (with the original artists singing)?  If so, and the entire song is being done, then she may be okay.  If she intends to publish her musical, she will need to get permissions.  (She could try Tresona, a copyright management company).
on May 10, 2015 4:08pm
Possibly two-part arrangements on JWPepper, SheetMusicPlus etc.?  Perfectly fine.  Also Spoonful of Sugar, Singing in the Rain, Sufing USA - those are all old songs she may already have in her library.  She may also be arranging them herself.
on May 11, 2015 12:11pm
I am not sure that some of this advice is correct.  If this is going to be PERFORMED, that is different than just using it with kids in a face to-face-teaching situation.  I am not sure that even purchasing texts for "school use" and performing for an audience are the same thing. My understanding is that if the texts in writing somewhere in the contract or in the book itself give express written permission to use any of the copyrighted material for inclusion in other works for performance, then you are OK.  If not, I would contact the textbook supplier/company and ask their copyright departmenet.  A simple e-mail or phone call for a few minutes with exactly your thoughts about how where and when this is going to be used may save you a world of heartache later on.  And get that opinion in writing (an e-mail is now a legal document). If she is singing to the original artists recordings in a performance-permission is needed, in my humble opinion.  Old or new, if they are under copyright, or you want to arrange them uirself, you do need permission from the holder of the original copyright to arrange them, at least that is my understanding.
First Grade or 12th grade, freee tickets or not, if you are not using this in face to face teaching, my opinion is that you should get permissionform the copyright holder.  Then you are 100% safe and sure you are in compliance.
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on May 11, 2015 8:01pm
Susan Young is correct and gives good advice.  It might also be a really good idea to take a look at these two recent threads about copyright issues, and click on some of the resource links provided within them:


on May 12, 2015 12:13pm
I am constantly amazed at some of the advice people give that may or may not be correct for a particular situation.  What you may personally THINK is correct, and what IS correct may not always match up.  Unless you can point to something in the law, or in court opinions on the law itself to back up your OPINION, my advice is do NOT  give anyone an opinion when asked.  If I cannot back that opinion up with a legal opinion, I would not give any opinion except-let'sl look up the situation and see what the law and other legal opinions about this say.  Where can I find something in the law or in a legal opinion that will make me 100% sure I am safe.  I feel this should be the position we should all come from. You must be satisfied that YOU in YOUR SITUATION are in compliance.  It may be true that the district and the textbook company have purchased the rights for school use.  That does NOT mean that in a performance situation, or making a CD or making a video the rights are necessarily covered by the term "for school use".  On the surface, it seems it would be true, but that "for school use" terminology can have legal ramifications that are not necessarily what one would consider as a"common sense" approach.  Too many have been caught in a non-compliance situation by not realizing the "legalese" of and are looking at this from a "user-friendly" or "common sense" approach.  If you contact the company and ask what they mean by "for school use" and get that in writing, then you will be DEFINITE about what it means and feel comfortable with your position.
For example, I was doing an arrangement of music from 1929 for a Diamond Jubilee. One would think that the rights were under public domain.  Actually NONE of the rights were.   One catalogue had been bought by 2 different publishing houses throughout the years.  It took a while, but I did get permission to arrange for the medley for each and every song.  I carried the licensing with me everywhere I went, just in case someone questioned my right to arrange these songs for the concert, and sure enough, some curmudgeon at the concert came and asked if I had permission to arrange, and I just took the license out of the folder, showed it to him, and asked if he would like to see any of the other ones.  I really did not appreciate having to go through this, and will not share what I thought of the transaction, but I was VERY GLAD I had all my ducks in order.  Was it the easy way out?  Definitely not, but I had the PROOF  I needed  and felt very comfortable when asked.
Connie, I am glad that you are concerned about this!!  I am glad that you are concerned that it matters if you are in compliance.  Just that concern will assure that you will do the right thing and research it for your own piece of mind and your own safety.
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on June 27, 2015 7:25am
The above is good advice. I'd like to add to it, with the usual disclaimer that I Am Not A Lawyer and that if you think you are doing anything with significant legal implications you should get advice from one.  That being said, I'd like to share a resource I've found helpful in understanding some of the legal issues.  These are several books published by Nolo Press (another disclaimer: I have no connection blah blah blah ...)  Nolo is a book publisher in Berkely that  has been around for a long time and has gained an excellent reputation for writing legal handbooks for the layperson.  Their books are readily available from their web site, and are often found in public or college libraries. The three books of theirs I've seen that deal with copyright issues are The Copyright Handbook, Getting Permission, and The Public Domain.  The latter in particular is good on music. You can find descriptions on their web site here.  The Nolo site also includes updates on legal issues and various information and forums on legal issues, including intellectual property rights.
To reiterate, Nolo and its books and site aren't a substitute for a lawyer, but in my experience they can help you decide whether you need one, and what questions you should ask if you get one. They can also serve as a corrective to the massive amount of inaccurate legal advice found elsewhere on the internet.
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