This outline is intended to be a guide to the major requirements of the Copyright Law as they apply to users of printed music. This outline does not presume to be a comprehensive summary of the Copyright Act of 1976. It does not attempt to deal with all the issues covered by the legislation, nor does it provide answers to many of the legal questions. The purpose of this outline is to help individuals understand the basic law and then adjust according to the information.
Basic Outline of The United States Copyright Law
This information may be copied for informational purposes
We thank Music Publishers Association, (MPA) New York, NY, for the following information and the below stated permission to reproduce it in order to assure its widest possible circulation. Also MPA gives thanks to the Church Music Publishers Association, National Music Publishers
Association, and the Music Industry Council for their valued help and cooperation in preparing the outline.
Copyright-What Does it Mean?
Under the U.S. Copyright Law, copyright owners have the exclusive right to print, publish, copy, and sell their protected works. The copyright owners of the books and music you purchase are indicated on those publications.
The printed music reaches individuals and groups as a result of the collaboration of a number of people
• the time and creative effort of the composer, arranger,and/or lyricist
• the investment of time and money by the publisher
• local music and/or bookstore retailers who supply musical needs.
Whenever printed music is copied without permission, a theft has occurred against the:
• composers, arrangers, and/or lyricists
• music and/or bookstore retailers
The Rights Of Others
The U.S. Copyright Law is designed to encourage the development of the arts and sciences by protecting the work of the creative individuals in our society—composers, arrangers, authors, poets, dramatists, choreographers and others.
It is essential to the future of printed music that the Copyright Law be upheld by all. Composers, arrangers, lyricists, publishers and dealers are losing a significant percentage of their income because of illegal photocopying. This loss of revenue ultimately means that less and less printed music is available for sale, short print runs mean higher prices for what is available, and dealers are no longer able to afford to carry large stocks of sheet music.
Copyright owners have every right to prosecute offenders under the U.S. Copyright Law. To date, there have been a notable number of court decisions against individuals, churches, colleges and other institutions for violations of the Copyright Law—some involving substantial fines.
A more detailed pamphlet, The United States Copyright Law-A Guide for Music Educators-is available from Music Publishers Association, 205 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017.
What You Must NOT Do! The following are expressly prohibited.
• Copying to avoid purchase
• Copying music for any kind of performance (note exception a little further down)
• Copying without including copyright notice
• Copying to create anthologies or compilations
• Reproducing material designed to be consumable such as workbooks, standardized tests and answer sheets
• Charging students or participants beyond the actual cost involved in making copies as permitted
What You CAN Do!
What you can do without having secured prior permission:
• Emergency copying to replace purchased copies which for any reason are not available for an imminent performance provided replacement copies are purchased or on order.
• For 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.
What If I Can't Find The Owner Of A Copyrighted Song? Can I Go Ahead And Copy It Without Permission?
NO. You must have the permission of the copyright owner. Check the copyright notice on the work, and/or check with the publisher of the collection in which the work appears. Once you have this information, write to the copyright owner.
As a Soloist, Is It Permissible For Me To Make A Photocopy Of A Copyrighted Work For My Accompanist?
NO. Permission for duplication, for any purpose whatsoever, must be secured from the copyright owner.
Is It Permissible To Print Words Only On A One-Time Basis, Such As In A Concert Program?
NO. Permission must be secured prior to any duplication. Using 'just the words' makes no difference.
But What About Items That Are Out Of Print?
Most publishers are agreeable, under special circumstances, to allow reproducing out-of-print items, but again, permission must be secured from the copyright owner prior to any duplication.
Can I Make A Transparency Of A Copyrighted Song For Use By Overhead Projector?
NO. The making of a transparency is a duplication, and permission must be secured from the copyright owner.
Can I Make A Band Arrangement Of A Copyrighted Piano Solo? Can I Make A String Ensemble Arrangement Of A Copyrighted Work? Can I Make A Flute arrangement Of A Copyrighted Work For Clarinet?
NO. Making any arrangement is a duplication, and permission must be obtained from the copyright owner.
What About The Photocopiers Who Don't "Get Caught"?
They force the price of legal editions higher. They enrich the manufacturers of copying machines at the expense of composers, arrangers, authors, publishers and music retailers. They risk embarrassment from friends and colleagues who understand the law; and they risk fines and jail sentences if taken to court.
Remember, any use of copyrighted work for any purpose—for church, for school, for a non-profit organization—to be sold, to be rented—"just for our church", words only, "we're not selling copies", emergency use, failure to locate the owner, or any other reason or justification, requires permission before any duplication or copies can be made.
Any additional questions not covered in this outline can be addressed to either the Copyright Owner or to the Music Publishers Association.
For more information about the copyright law visit Library of Congress, Washington D.C.