TME Podcast Season 2, Ep. 14: Understanding Copyright in Music Education

Description: As music educators, we deal with regular copyright issues. Understanding copyright in music education is an ethical practice and goal that we should strive for on a daily basis. These issues may relate to fair use, video recordings, audio recordings, and performances regarding printed music. With the invention of new music distribution and processing services so has come new challenges with music education and business industries.

What Exactly is Copyright?

Copyright refers to the right to copy. To clarify, this protects sounds and music from unauthorized revision, reproduction, distribution, and performances. As a result, copyright protects both performance and recordings. Also, owners of the copyright even afford the owner certain rights and privileges that include:

  • Publicly performing copyrighted works.

  • Reproduction of the copyrighted work.

  • Displayed copyrighted work.

  • Public distribution of copyrighted work.


Public Domain

Fair Use


Copying Music

Allowed - "Fair Use" for Photocopying Music

  • Emergency copying to replace purchased copies for an imminent performance.

  • For academic purposes other than a performance provided excerpts do not exceed one copy per pupil.

  • Printed copies that have been purchased may be edited or simplified as long as the work is not distorted.

Not Allowed - Actions for Photocopying

  • Copying to create or replace collective works.

  • Copying of or from works that intend to be consumable (ie workbooks, exercises, tests.)

  • Reproduction for the purpose of substituting the purchase of music.

  • Copying without the inclusion of the copyright notice.

Photocopying from Books

There are limitations from photocopying from books and periodicals that fall under copyright law, under "Fair Use." The guidelines for this include:

  • Single copying for teachers

    • A chapter from a book

    • Article from a periodical

    • As a short story

    • A chart graph or diagram

  • Multiple copies for classroom use

    • The copying meets the test of brevity

    • The copying meets the cumulative test

    • Each copy includes a notice of copyright


Until 1972 Federal Law did not protect sound recordings. The copyright owner is the only one allowed to reproduce recordings and sheet music. However, it is important to note that there are some fair use of music education limitations. These include:

  • A single copy of a recording may be made of performances for the evaluation or rehearsal purposes made by the teacher.

  • A single copy of sound recording may be made and kept by the teacher for the purpose of aural exercises, and examinations.

Copyright - Musical Recordings With Your Own Ensemble

Anyone, under certain guidelines, can record their group (in order to produce a CD that you can sell) as long as they do the following:

  • Receive permission to record by contacting the copyright owner.

  • Obtain a Compulsory Mechanical License (Requirement of the Copyright Act of 1976)

Music Educators Performing Copyright Music With Their Own Performing Ensembles

Music educators are not considered infringing doing the following:

  • Performance of copyright material by instructors or pupils in the course of the face-to-face teaching activities.

  • Performance of non-dramatic literary or musical work on a closed circuit. This must be part of the systematic set of instructional activities.

  • Performance of non-dramatic literary or musical work at a school concert if there is no purpose of direct or indirect commercial purpose.

  • Performance of non-dramatic literary or musical work of a religious nature.

Music on the Internet

To obtain a digital music license visit:

Final Thoughts