The U.S. Copyright Law is designed to encourage the development of the arts and sciences by protecting the creative work of the individuals in our society—composers, authors, poets, dramatists, choreographers and others. The law deals first with the exclusive rights belonging to the owner of a copyright (which may be the composer or, if a deal has been cut, a publisher). These are things that only copyright holders can do—unless they grant specific permission to others.
These rights, as stated in the law and relating to materials likely to be used by music teachers, are:
- To reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or recordings
- To prepare derivative works (e.g., arrangements) based upon the copyrighted work
- To distribute copies or recordings of the copyrighted work to the public (mostly by sale, but also by rental or other methods)
- To perform the work publicly
- To perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission
So the law starts out by saying that the copyright holder has the exclusive right to reproduce, arrange, and perform works. The law, however, proceeds to limit these rights in certain specific instances, including library copying and educational broadcasting. The most important group of limitations for music teachers is embodied in the section of the law that outlines the concept of “educational fair use.” (The actual sections of the law that deal with library and archival copying and fair use are reproduced in their entirety in Appendix A of this document.)