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Music Reproduction

Key Takeaways

  • Academic institutions often secure blanket licenses with one or all of these licensing societies to cover many public performances for nondramatic musical works on campus.
    • ASCAP:, BMI:, SESAC:
    • Usually these licenses only allow rights to make public performances or compositions of nondramatic music.  In order to reproduce and distribute a musical work or sound recording, copyright permission may be required (unless use falls within exceptions under U.S. Copyright Act, including fair use).
  • A composition and the recording of it are distinct and separate copyrightable works.
  • A single recording often comprises two separate copyrighted works.
    • The writer of the song may hold copyright in the musical work.
    • The recording company may hold copyright in the sound recording.
  • The first sale doctrine limits the copyright owner's ability to control copies of a copyrighted work.  For example, someone may own the copyright in a music CD but the owner of that CD generally may dispose of that copy by giving it away, selling it, lending it, or even renting it.  The first sale doctrine allows libraries to lend materials from their collections.
    • In response to the 1980s growth of private businesses renting music CDs to the public, which in turn could copy the work, Congress amended the law so that musical works or sound recordings containing musical works could only be lent for nonprofit purposes by a "nonprofit library" or "nonprofit educational institution."

Guidelines for Educational Use of Music

The following excerpts are reprinted from the Circular 21: Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians Open PDF(Section C,2B, iii, Page 7) .

The purpose of the following guidelines is to state the minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use under Section 107. These guidelines is not intended to limit the types of copying permitted under the standards of fair use under judicial decision and which are stated in Section 107 of the Copyright Revision Bill. There may be instances in which copying which does not fall within the guidelines stated below may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use.

Permissible Uses

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Printed copies which have been purchased may be edited or simplified provided that the fundamental character of the work is not distorted or the lyrics, if any, altered or lyrics added if none exist.
  4. A single copy of recordings of performances by students may be made for evaluation or rehearsal purposes and may be retained by the educational institution or individual teacher.
  5. A single copy of a sound recording (such as a tape, disc or cassette) 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. (This pertains only to the copyright of the music itself and not to any copyright which may exist in the sound recording.)


  1. Copying to create or replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works.
  2. Copying of or from works intended to be “consumable” in the course of study or of teaching such as workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and answer sheets and like material.
  3. Copying for the purpose of performance, except as in A (1) above.
  4. Copying for the purpose of substituting for the purchase of music, except as in A(1) and A(2) above.
  5. Copying without inclusion of the copyright notice which appears on the printed copy.