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Can choir instructor photocopy purchased sheet music?

In this video, Entertainment Lawyer Gordon Firemark answers a question about the rights to copy sheet music for use in a school setting.



I've got a quick one for you today. It deals with the rights to copy sheet music for use in a school setting. Stay tuned.

Q: Phil is a school vocal music instructor, who asks: If I purchase 30 pieces of choral music for use in my classroom, am I allowed to make 30 copies of that music to distribute to students so that they can annotate and edit according to our performance practices? When the performance is complete we would destroy all 30 copies.

A: Phil, I'm sorry, but this is a no-go. When you buy a printed copy of sheet music, you get the right to do certain things like read, study, and practice the music. Heck, you can even sell those specific copies under something called the “first sale doctrine”. But what you don't get is the right to make additional copies… even if you plan to destroy them later.

It's copyright infringement, plain and simple. If you get caught, the consequences can be significant.

When I was in school, we were taught to make our notations and markings on music in pencil, and to erase the markings when we're done with the charts… And that's still the recommended approach today. — Hey, if you like these Q&A videos, please subscribe. It's easy.

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This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for viewers'’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

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