Are ensembles allowed to film themselves and freely distribute the video to those within the ensemble either “for cost” or at “no cost”? 

After reading the above question, I realized that I was not sure if I knew the correct answer.  I was aware of some basic copyright laws, and realized that there are many legal aspects that educators must abide by.  However, after researching in more detail, I realized that the situation can be more complicated than I expected and is most likely frequently violated.

          According to MENC and their Music Education Copyright Center information, a single copy of a videotaped performance of your ensemble can be made to keep on file for reference or review.  However, if you want to make multiple copies and distribute them, either with or without charge, you will need permission of the copyright owners for each piece of music performed on the videotape. In addition, you will also need permission from parents to have their children videotaped.  For more information about MENC’s copyright views, read the MENC publication on copyright law.

Another individual who seems to agree with the view of MENC is James Frankel, teacher and author of To Burn Or Not To Burn: It’s More Than An Ethical Question.  Though his book deals with a different avenue of copyright, Frankel has done much research concerning the topic at hand and has much to say.  In response to the above question of copyright legality, Frankel responds, “The answer is no. Why? Every piece of music published with two copyright protections – one copyright protects the printed music itself, and another protects any recording of a performance of it.”



          So how can you legally sell copies of a concert?  According to the Fair Use Policy (which was written to protect those who are financially affected by the loss of sales), one can record a concert for archival purposes only and that the recording may not be lent out to students.  This recording can be played back in a classroom for critique only.  Also, without written permission from the publisher of the composition, you may not post a recording of the concert on a website, which is a commonly violated aspect of copyright.  Many teachers not only record their concerts, but they sell the recordings as a fund-raiser.  However, this is a clear violation of the law.  In order to have legal sales, you must get clearance from the Harry Fox Agency and pay royalties per copy of each CD sold.

          To learn more about this issue, visit the following link for more information:  Also, I strongly encourage going to both the MENC site and Harry Fox Agency as well as James Frankel’s copyright blog site.  All will be very educating and insightful concerning copyright legality.