Current U.S. Copyright Law represents an attempt by Congress to balance the rights of creators and copyright proprietors with the rights of copyright users. That is, Congress wanted both to protect those that produce and own copyrighted materials (composers and publishers) and to recognize the needs of those that use and enjoy those materials (listeners, performers, and prominently, music teachers).

The compromise represented by the Law is the result of numerous congressional hearings as well as studies conducted by the U.S. Copyright Office, in connection with which a substantial amount of testimony was heard and numerous comments were received from members of both groups. Of course, debate on the best way to manage the use of creative materials was and is contentious, particularly around the specific ways that educators can properly use copyrighted works without a formal license. It is no surprise that copyright proprietors endeavor to protect the incentive for creative effort, whereas educators wish to incorporate such works in their instruction without over-restrictive regulations or costly permission fees.

Basically, the legislative compromise permits educators, subject to certain limitations and exceptions, to use copyright protected works in the classroom setting while still affording copyright proprietors significant protections against excessive or commercially-damaging unauthorized use. Using the simple ideas put forth here, music educators will be able to better focus on the core job of teaching and to protect themselves and their schools from liability — the unpleasant possibility of being sued.

In other words, the organizations that have cooperated in preparing this document feel that to make the careful compromise written into the law work day-to-day, two basic factors must be taken into consideration:

  1. The pedagogical need of music educators for reasonable access to copyrighted material
  2. The practical need for music creators and their publishers to stay in business