Music Copyright for teachers

By Tim Topham | General Education

Oct 22

I recently attended a presentation run by APRA/AMCOS specifically focussing on copyright laws for Australian music teachers.

The session was very informative and answered many of my questions. Here are some of the details that may be of interest to other teachers:

  • If you are using a work (composition, film, screenplay)  composed/written prior to 1955, the work is now considered out of copyright and may freely be used, downloaded, shared and copied. Eg. the music of Gershwin,  Bartok and all those before them is free, however various editions may still be copyrighted.
  • Copyright in published editions of printed music lasts for 25 years from the publication date. Be careful when using scores freely available from IMSLP (which is based in Canada) as they have different laws to Australia. (If you are teaching in Australia, the only laws that are relevant are Australian copyright laws.) If the edition was published longer than 25 years ago, it is out of copyright.
  • I was also interested to learn that all Australian government schools and most independent schools hold the following licences:
  1. APRA Performance Licence – granting performances of live and recorded works for educational purposes on and off school premises (covering things like assemblies, outside performance at fetes, masses, showcase concerts, etc.). This does not cover performances of “Grand Right Works” such as musicals, or any performances for commercial gain, the rights for which must be obtained separately.
  2. AMCOS Photocopying Licence – this entitles schools to copy more than the usual “10% or 1 chapter” amounts of books and scores but is limited to: 5 copies per 1 original for choral works, 15 copies per original for other musical works, 15 copies of up to 3 songs from a “Grand Right Work” (musical) and 30 copies per original for band/orchestral parts. Read here for full details. Copies should always be marked as “AMCOS Licensed Copies”, following the guidelines on their website. Teachers working at multiple schools can’t use these rules separately at each school – ie. they may only make 30 band parts from each original score in total, not at each school. If they need more copies, they’ll have to buy more originals.
  3. ARIA Recordings Licence – allows making, sharing and selling recordings of school events (selling only to recoup costs of CD manufacture or staging an event) and sharing them on CD or school intranet. This licence also allows the use of iTunes downloads for educational use at school (this is a new law as of 1/1/2012). Any recordings made should state that they are made “under licence from ARIA” (eg. on the CD sleeve) – full details on their website.
  • According to APRA/AMCOS, teachers should not upload performances and recordings to YouTube (or anywhere on the internet) as this will be in violation of copyright. As many of you know, I’m a big advocate of putting both my own and my students’ playing on YouTube (with their parent’s permission) and have noticed that some videos get flagged as “including copyrighted material” or “matched third-party content”. So far, all the videos flagged in this way have remained on worldwide view – hopefully because the publishers realise that having these played on YouTube is effectively free promotion of their works.
  • Grand Right Works may not be recorded under any licence (not even for archiving).
  • Currently, scanning documents for use on ipads, etc. is a no-no (although the presenter said that APRA/AMCOS is currently working on how to licence digital media for the 2013 licence updates). This is where copyright law is currently way behind the technology.
  • Whilst transposing and transcribing music is perfectly legal, any alterations to the original melodies, rhythms, lyrics is considered an arrangement and the publisher’s permission must be sought. You can email schools@apra.com.au for help contacting publishers.
  • Sub-contracted instrumental teachers who work in schools but are paid directly by students are considered private contractors and not usually covered by the school’s music licences. If you are in this situation, it may be worth checking your contract and discussing this further with your school. Private music teachers working from home are definitely not covered by these school licences and should ensure that they copy no more than 10% of a work and/or seek their own licences to reproduce music.
  • Downloads from independent arrangers online and/or selling your own arrangements of works that are still in copyright is illegal. Downloading and using music from legitimate websites such as musicnotes, sheetmusicdirect and sheetmusicplus, however are all OK.

If you’re an Australian music teacher and interested to find out more about your rights and obligations, please go to the APRA/AMCOS portal for teachers. Also see Guide to Music in Schools.

Disclaimer: Please realise that I’m neither a copyright lawyer nor specialist in this field and make the above comments in good faith. I make no representations as to the accuracy, completeness or validity of any information in this post and will not be held liable for any errors or omissions nor any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.

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About the Author

Best-known for his blogging and teaching, Tim is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist based in Melbourne, Australia. You can check him out on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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