In these days of digital downloads, scanning and photocopiers, I am often asked whether it’s OK to make copies of music. Teachers, choir leaders and students often run into this problem. We understand it can be a contentious issue as the price of printed music keeps escalating and paying audiences continue to dwindle so here’s a few quick FAQs for you…
– Copying for performance purposes:
1) Owning one copy of, for example, a choral piece does NOT entitle you to make copies of it since the price is based on the cost of publishing etc for that one individual copy. If your group intends to perform a work, you must either buy or hire enough original versions to support your performance. This also applies to downloads where you must pay for the number of copies you intend to use.
THIS ALSO APPLIES TO MAKING HANDWRITTEN COPIES!
2) Anyone may copy individual pages for the purpose of performance to avoid difficult page turns. It is considered best practice to destroy these after the final performance.
3) If you own an original copy of a piece, you may make one enlarged copy for the purposes of easier viewing.
4) Many people assume you can photocopy music which is out of print. However, the copyright still rests with the original owner and as they may have chosen to cease production for a variety of reasons, the only legal way to access out of print works is to contact the publisher who will tell you whether copyright still exists. The publisher will either then agree to print it and give you a price, tell you why they can’t or give you express permission to make a certain number of copies.
– Copying for education purposes:
1) Educators may NOT use their own arrangements of copyrighted music. Many teachers will find this surprising, however since the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 came into being, the right to do so has been expressly prohibited. There are some very limited exceptions covered by strict Music Publishers Association guidelines but these don’t really allow for performance of works without express permission from the publisher. This normally doesn’t include just simplifying or transposing music providing the original character is maintained. If in doubt, check with the publisher.
2) Educators may copy fragments or pages of music for use in the classroom or use in exam questions. Whole works may not be used in this way without the prior permission of the copyright owner who can usually be contacted via the publisher. The exception to this is examinations which involve performance of a work for which a legitimate copy must be used.
3) Large ensemble works which are only sold complete (ie: the instrumental parts are not available to purchase separately) may be copied provided the total amount of photocopies does not exceed the equivalent of a quarter of the number of parts originally purchased.
Another similar topic which is increasingly relevant is that of sampling other composers’ work and the rules are very similar to the copyrights for whole works. If the sample is recognisable as part of an already published work (whether it is several bars, a few seconds or less), you may only use it with the express permission of the copyright owner. This also applies to lyrics.
The Music Publishers Association http://www.mpaonline.org.uk/
This information is correct as of 26/07/2014. However, as things are always subject to change, the one main rule of thumb is if you aren’t sure, ask the publisher or copyright owner.