Copyright Laws

Frequently asked questions:

  • Question: If I'm using a piece of music to teach my students, may I make copies of it for classroom use?
    • Yes, but only if it is not used for a performance and it must not be a complete piece or movement. An excerpt is appropriate.
  • Question: May I burn a CD of various artists for teaching in the classroom?
    • Yes, but the school must have purchased all of the original CDs and there may only be one copy of the teaching CD. It must also never be sold
  • Question: May I xerox an "out-of-print" piece of music?
    • Only with permission in writing from the publisher
  • Question: May I burn music or information from the internet for classroom use?
    • Only with permission in writing from the publisher


Copyright is the right to copy. It is a right derived from authority granted to Congress by our Constitution.

Photocopying Music

Photocopying is the biggest problem facing the educational music publishing industry today. Every unauthorized photocopy is a lost sale and lower sales mean smaller royalty checks for writers.

Fair Uses

  • Emergency 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.
  • For academic purposes other than performance, single or 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 percent of the whole work. The number of copies shall not exceed one copy per pupil.

Reasons to write a publisher for permission to copy

  • Out-of print works
  • Photocopying works from collections
  • Extra parts for high number of students in certain sections
  • Music for Contests for judges
  • Choral parts or speaking parts for musicals

Classroom and instructional use

Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-For Profit Educational Institutions:

  • Single copies for teachers of a chapter from a book, an article from a periodical or newspaper, a short story, short essay or short poem, a chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical or newspaper.
  • Multiple copies for classroom use if each copy includes a notice of copyright and if it meets the cumulative effect tests of brevity and spontaneity.

With the evolution of computer technology, this may be a bigger problem than that of photocopying music. CD burners are in many, many homes as well as businesses.

Fair Uses

  • A single copy of a sound recording 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.
  • A single copy of recordings of performance by students may be made for evaluation and rehearsal purposes and may be retained by the educational institution or individual teacher.

Live performances without commercial advantage to anyone

A live performance of a musical work is without commercial advantage to anyone and may be recorded:

  • If no payments are made to any performers, promoters, or organizers; and
  • If there is no direct or indirect admission charge.

Note: To study a more complete explanation of the copyright policies for photocopying music and recording copyrighted recordings, order "COPYRIGHT: THE COMPLETE GUIDE FOR MUSIC EDUCATORS" by Jay Althouse published by Music In Action, PO Box 204, East Stroudsburg, PA 18301

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