Music Publisher's Association of the United States
(Experts taken from the MPA
This information is provided as a resource for music directors regarding
copyright laws. For additional
information please go to the Music Publisher's Association at www.mpa.org.
WHAT YOU MUST NOT DO!
The following are expressly prohibited:
- Copying to
music for any kind of performance (note emergency exception below)
without including copyright notice
- Copying to
create anthologies or compilations
material designed to be consumable such as workbooks, standardized tests
and answer sheets
students beyond the actual cost involved in making copies as permitted
WHAT YOU CAN DO!
What you can do without having secured prior permission:
copying to replace purchased copies which for any reason are not available
for an imminent performance provided purchased replacement copies shall be
substituted in due course.
academic purposes other than performance, multiple copies of excerpts of
works may be made, provided that the excerpts do not comprise a part of
the whole which would constitute a performable unit such as a section,
movement, or aria but in no case more than 10% of the whole work. The
number of copies shall not exceed one copy per pupil.
copies which have been purchased may be edited OR simplified provided that
the fundamental character of the work is not distorted or the lyrics, if
any, altered or lyrics added if none exist.
- A single
copy of recordings of performance by students may be made for evaluation
or rehearsal purposes and may be retained by the educational institution
or individual teacher.
- A single
copy of a sound recording (such as a tape, disc or cassette) of
copyrighted music may be made from sound recordings owned by an
educational institution or an individual teacher for the purpose of
constructing aural exercises or examinations and may be retained by the
educational institution or individual teacher. (This pertains only to the
copyright of the music itself and not to any copyright which may exist in
the sound recording.)
PENALTIES FOR INFRINGEMENT
The remedies provided by the law to a copyright owner mean that anyone
found making illegal copies, or otherwise infringing, could face:
damages of from $750 to $30,000 and, if the court finds willfulness, up to
- If willful
infringement for commercial advantage and private financial gain is
proved, fines of up to $250,000 and/or five years' imprisonment, or
both.(as of March 1, 1989)
Sometimes, music may be erroneously reported to be out-of-print. If you are
in doubt and it is vital that you obtain the music, write directly to the
publisher. Only the publisher or copyright owner has the right to confirm that
a title is out-of-print. If a title is out of print, many publishers will make
arrangements for you to obtain a copy.
How do I get permission to make photocopies of "out of print"
works or arrangements of copyrighted works?
When a copyrighted work goes out of print and becomes generally unavailable
to the public, the fact that it is "out of print" does not imply that
it may be reproduced in any manner without first receiving permission from the
copyright owner. As long as the work is under copyright, permission to
reproduce the work must always be obtained.
How can I tell if a work is still protected by copyright?
Works created after January 1, 1978 will be protected for the life of the
composer (author) plus 70 years. Copyrights in effect on that date, if renewed,
will continue for 75 years from the date copyright was originally secured.
Those works in their initial 28-year period of copyright on January 1, 1978 can
be renewed for an additional 47 years, while the copyright of works in their
renewal term on that date were automatically extended for an additional 19
Do I need permission to make an arrangement or transcription?
If an arrangement is made of a copyrighted work without the authorization
of the copyright owner, the arrangement would be an unauthorized derivative
work and therefore an infringement of the copyright and the exclusive right of
the copyright owner. The first thing to do when you want to make an arrangement
is check if the work is in the public domain or if it is protected by
copyright. If the work is protected by copyright, you cannot make an arrangement
without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
May I make copies of existing recordings for my students to take home to
It is expressly prohibited to make copies of recordings of a copyrighted
work (even it it's for home practice) without permission of the copyright owner
of both the musical composition and the recording. Please ask...publishers may
be willing to work with you on licensing fees.
May I make my own recording of a composition for my students to take home?
This too requires the permission of the copyright owners of the musical
composition. Again, please ask...publishers will consider all the facts of such
requests in making these licensing decisions.
May I extract one or two pieces out of a collection and use photocopies of
those pieces instead of purchasing the entire collection?
While collections may be "more expensive than what I wanted to
spend" and "I only want to use one piece from the collection, I'll
never use any other", they are made for a purpose; whether it be a
musical, a cantata, a genre collection, or a contractual stipulation. Whatever
the case, the collection must be purchased in its entirety. Some publishers may
license use of individual pieces, however, situations vary greatly. Please
contact the individual copyright owner for specific licensing possibilities.