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Topic: Taping school concerts - the law and being practical

  1. #1

    Taping school concerts - the law and being practical

    I videotape concerts for the local middle & and high school band and choir concerts.
    I create a DVD that parents can buy ($5) as a keepsake and for relatives who will never make it to our town.
    I know it is a serious No NO to do that for Broadway musicals - "Sound of Music", etc. etc. and I don't do that.

    But these concerts are programs with individual songs from a variety of composers.
    I am one of those composers because my songs are sung around Indiana, Ohio, PA and a few other states.
    I would not expect to get a "royalty" fee for such a use of one song on a program of say - 10 songs.
    I would not bother or take the time to check out all the schools and try to get some money - a small amount of $$.
    One of the directors likes to have me do this, but seems overly concerned about copyright and charging money.
    At these same concerts - parents are buying a ticket for the concert - so the school is making money too.

    OK, I know that technically a composer "could" get a mechanical royalty fee (I think I am right) for such a use of their song. But in the real world, I so doubt that song composers who write for schools REALLY expects to be paid for this.

    If I cover a song and put in on my CD, I would pay 9.1 cents per CD - $91 per 1000 CDs.
    When a song is played on the radio - they get what? .25 cents per play or something like that?

    I know you cannot give me legal advice - just your thoughts - experiences.
    I have had schools contact me because they wanted to sell CDs of my Indiana show as a fundraiser.
    The most I have asked is $50 and usually I waive it and ask for a copy for free.
    One time I got a CD back that did not have my name on it as the composer!
    I now require that they do that.

    Thanks - Charles
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Suburban NYC

    Re: Taping school concerts - the law and being practical

    Hi Charles,

    I read with interest your dilemma ... It's a tough area with very little room for interpretation. I'm not a lawyer, but have dealt with this issue for church and community theater.

    The long and short of it is simple: The copyrighted songs created by yourself and your 'composer-for-school-works' colleagues are protected no differently than Rodgers and Hammerstein's songs: It's a violation of US Copyright law to perform or fix in audio/video format for distribution ANY materials created by another without permission from the copyright owners. It doesn't matter if you gave them away, or, if you made the concerts free ... you still need the permissions. (Major exemption: You MAY perform (but not broadcast or fix in audio media) any copyrighted materials used within a formal religious service).

    I'm not passing judgment or giving advice, just sharing my experience. Our church secures blanket-type performance licenses for variety-style shows, and the more costly (but required) licenses for when the school kids do a 'formal' complete musical. And we do not make money on these shows. The fact that your schools generate profit from the materials can't help in any court case. ... BUT ...

    I don't think there is any issue at all if all the songs are owned by composers like yourself (IOW, if everybody in your educational market circles is onboard, and you've all given each other permission to use the materials, there should be no issue ... you would in fact "have permission"). I would think it's only an issue if you are covering songs by writers outside of your academic circle (IE, using "White Christmas" at a Christmas concert, etc.).

    If you are using materials 'outside your circle', here is the link to an excellent company that secures all kinds of copyright licensing ... CCS. They're in Nashville and work with ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. It's a good site to get info from ... christiancopyrightsolutions.com

    Also, 'Copyright.gov' is an excellent web site with a lot of relevant info.

    Good luck! It's such a sticky issue!


  3. #3

    Re: Taping school concerts - the law and being practical

    Charles! I always perk up when you drop by the Forum. It's too rare a thing to see you here, and always am glad when you do appear.

    This isn't exactly what you're asking about, but it touches on something you brought up, and something I can speak to from experience:

    --Our local community theatre, like most such groups, do a Broadway musical or two every year. For years they videotaped the show so participants could have a copy. At some point, the individual doing the taping made the mistake of selling a copy to someone who wasn't involved in the show. Someone reported it to the publisher of that show, and the theatre's office got a stern warning that they wouldn't be able to license any more shows from their catalog if they ever heard about videotaping again.

    For years after that, none of the shows were taped. Then, a member of the group who happened to be a well known court judge in town took it on herself to make an inquiry into the matter. She found out that in actuality, publishers will allow taping for archival purposes - BUT, that this isn't something stated in their contracts. It was of course the selling of a tape which the publisher couldn't tolerate, it wasn't the taping for archival purposes. So, the theatre changed its policy, and for quite a few years they once again taped shows. And that's what the majority of community theatres do. Some people think that it's specifically stated in some contracts that such in-house, archival taping is allowed, but I'm not so sure about that.

    --However---currently the group isn't taping again. Why? -- You guessed it - once again some bozo was making money by selling the tape to patrons, it was discovered, and to protect itself, the group stopped taping. And of course it's very disappointing to community theatre volunteers to not have a video memento of their experience.

    More directly to your question, you pointed out that one of the school music directors you've dealt with is concerned about charging money for the tapes, and you think that isn't logical since the school is charging money for concert tickets. But a live performance, and a mechanical recording are two separate items under copyright law. When you pay for a licence to perform something, it's for a certain number of performances, and it doesn't matter whether or not there's a charge for tickets - the license still has to be paid for. A licence to record has to be arranged separately, and to pay out all the individual royalties, getting all that straight - all that would be way beyond what you or the schools would ever be getting into.

    Whether or not the schools are paying royalties for performing contemporary music may be something you don't know. But they undoubtedly haven't paid a fee to cover taping the concerts. I think what's safe for you and the schools to do gets down to something akin to what I talked about earlier in the story about the theatre taping their productions.

    But - all of this does seem murky. I'd like to see what input other people have on this. Frank's response is excellent, and I'm glad he suggested you look at the government's online copyright info.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Chandler, Arizona

    Re: Taping school concerts - the law and being practical

    I was talking to my daughter's band director about this a few weeks ago in regards to their marching band show. They paid $300 per song ($900) to be able use the song in performance and for video taping purposes as the shows are taped at all of the competitions.

    I'm not sure if they pay for the mechanical rights for regular band concerts though. I'll try to ask him about it tonight when I see him.

    Last year they did a Winterfest concert that had the symphonic band, orchestra, choirs and dance troupes and they sold videos from the performance so I'm wondering if they did get the rights for this.


  5. #5

    Re: Taping school concerts - the law and being practical

    Thanks for the thoughts folks.

    I have been doing a bunch of research online about this issue at sites that know what they are talking about
    For the most part, it is not murky at all.
    Individual songs or full Broadway shows - makes no difference - anyone needs permission to record in any manner.
    Also, from what I have read, schools need to have a blanket performance license . . . but not all composers work with the major licensing entities. And . . . a lot of schools - including my local school system (I think) do not have such a license. Charging admission to concerts "can" cause schools problems, as well. And on and on.
    I think many music educators think that anything in a public school setting is an "exception", but they are usually wrong.

    I have decided to mail myself a "cease and desist" letter!
    I did a concert tonight and I will do a middle school band concert tomorrow and that is it.
    I promised them, so I will do it.
    And then I am done and I will tell the teachers why I am stopping.
    It would be quite a chore to take the list of songs - find out from each publishers what their policy is and then pay for permission for some, while others will not charge.

    Do I think publishers are on the prowl to find people recording individual songs?
    Not really - what a chore that would be for them too!
    If "caught" - whether an individual or school - normally they would just say "stop".

    I hate to disappoint my fellow music teachers here, but I am just not willing to take the risk any further,
    Plus, I am opening them up to problems too because they hand out order forms AND collect the money for me.
    So, in effect, they are facilitating what I do and are a part of the process - so their hands are not so clean either.
    It is just not worth it and that is too bad for the kids and parents.
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  6. #6

    Re: Taping school concerts - the law and being practical

    Quote Originally Posted by indianamusic View Post
    I hate to disappoint my fellow music teachers here, but I am just not willing to take the risk any further...It is just not worth it and that is too bad for the kids and parents.
    Well - I think you're over reacting to info and not doing the best thing, Charles. It would help if someone made an inquiry for you to representative publishers, to keep your name out of things. I think you would find that a totally black and white approach to copyright law isn't constructive or realistic. Case in point - I had reason to speak directly to a publisher on a slightly different but related matter. The response was that it's foolish to inquire - That when pressed, they have to follow the letter of the copyright law, but they aren't interested in fining people and putting groups out of business. They're aware, the rep at the publisher said, that copyright law is "bent" all the time by groups making recordings, even selling them - They're not actively seeking out these incredibly small potato cases, but they don't want to hear about them either.

    So - have someone make an inquiry for you. I think you'll get a version of what I've tried to say here.

    Meanwhile, I feel you're not making the right decision - that's it's taking it all far too seriously.


  7. #7

    Re: Taping school concerts - the law and being practical

    I respect your opinion - I really do - but it is not impossible for me somehow to get into hot water.
    I make a little money doing it, but I can live without it and any stress related to it.
    It is just easier to not do it - if they want to get someone else to do it - that is just fine with me.

    Thanks though.
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  8. #8

    Re: Taping school concerts - the law and being practical

    Last night I emailed the music faculty at my old school system and told them that I was done with videotaping their shows. I also gave them a report on some research I had done about copyright issues and schools.
    I "think" that all public schools should have a blanket performing rights license, so I told them they need to check on that and see if I am right. And I am pretty sure I am right, but I am not a music/copyright lawyer. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about copyright issues among music educators. We are not as informed as the public might think we are - no formal training about it - and we should know more.

    I know the high school last year did a "lip dub" video using very current pop numbers as a soundtrack.
    I am quite sure that they did not get the proper permissions - and they need to to even if they do not sell it.
    Though I know it is done everywhere and probably no one gets in trouble.

    I was most frustrated and annoyed with one music teacher (a long-time teacher friend of mine) who said to me - "I have told my students that this DVD stuff is all YOU and that I have nothing to do with it or the school. I told them that in case the school gets sued". In my research, it seemed pretty clear that anyone involved could be part of a suit. The teachers hand out order forms and collect the money and hand the final product out to the kids. They are very involved. Licensing is my problem - I know that - it was just the attitude that bugged me.

    Anyway - I am done with it and I am OK with that. I have my own music to work on anyway.

    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  9. #9

    Re: Taping school concerts - the law and being practical

    I do sympathize with the problem, Charles. I was just feeling glib and feisty when I wrote last - so frustrated that anyone has to face these problems. But I understand your decision, in light of the possible legal problems that could loom up one day.

    It's unfortunate that there isn't a legal exception for the taping of school concerts. But there really isn't one.

    None of this is probably new to you, but your thread made me curious to look up some information:

    From MTNA - Music Teachers National Association

    "Q-Is a music license needed for music recitals in schools?

    A-No. If no admission fees are charged or if all proceeds from admission fees go to charitable or educational purposes, then musical performances by students or teachers, including performances by student bands and orchestras, may take place without a license or permission."

    So, schools are officially exempt from paying royalties, just as you said, Charles. I think we can assume that money raised from school performances goes back into the school, fulfilling the "educational purposes" clause.

    But, concerts and videos of those same concerts are two different matters.

    Also from MTNA:

    "It has been recognized that a music instructor may make a single copy of a recording of performances by students for the purpose of evaluation or rehearsal. That copy may be retained by the teacher. However, no more than a single copy may be made and retained. If multiple copies of the performance are made, the permission of the copyright holder would be required.

    Q-May parents videotape their children’s piano recital without a license?

    A-Yes, as long as the videotaping is done for private purposes only and is not distributed outside of the immediate family. If a parent were to make copies of the videotape and attempt to sell or distribute them beyond the immediate family, there could be a copyright violation."

    From "Performance royalties (ASCAP) and copyright" at Solobells, the website for Nancy Kirkner, a handbell soloist.

    "There are situations where copyright law permits music performance without paying royalties.

    Concerts presented at a school by students and teachers of that school.

    Where there is no payment to the performers, promoters, or organizers and either a) there is no admission charge or b) the net proceeds are used exclusively for educational, religious, or charitable purposes."

    And that's just a reiteration of what I first quoted from MTNA.

    So, confirmed today by looking up this info, is that schools are indeed exempt from paying royalties for concerts. But videotaping and distribution of the videos still requires a license to avoid copyright infringement.

    It's a drag, Charles.


  10. #10

    Re: Taping school concerts - the law and being practical

    The situation is even worse here in the UK! You can get prosecuted for just photographing or videoing children / students! You can get into serious trouble long before copyright becomes an issue! And if you feature one child in the video and not another, that's discrimination - and so it goes on!

    Copyright is very important, especially in the music industry - but it needs to be applied with common sense, something that was wiped out by the previous government and law makers this side of the pond at any rate!



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