New To Copyright? No Problem!



Picture this: You are preparing for your new competition show. You've found all the right pieces-great song selections, fantastic arranger, amazing choreographer, the whole nine yards. Suddenly, you receive an email.

As you read the email, you slowly begin to realize that your show is now in hot water. Here is how to find out how to receive the correct rights in order to perform your show and properly credit the original songwriters. Now you have to stop and think: how in the world do I do that? With that question, you have just taken your first step into the world of the United States Copyright Law.

Some of you reading this article may be pros at licensing your show and understanding Copyright Law, but there are those of you who may not be as fluent. I’m here to tell you that you have no reason to fret-the perfect solution for any music educator is right at your fingertips. The Solution: Solving the Copyright Conundrum.

When I began arranging a couple of years ago, I set out to create great products for my clients to perform on stage. But, I was clueless about proper licensing. Thankfully, I had an amazing opportunity through which I was able to learn how the Copyright Law works and in turn share that knowledge with fellow educators to assist them in their copyright endeavors.

I recently graduated with my Music Education degree from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. While at Millikin, I was a part of their amazing Honors Program and was fortunate enough to be named a James Millikin Scholar. Through this program, selected MIllikin students are given the opportunity to complete a two-year research project of their own creation. As a JMS scholar, I wanted to research and develop a new product that could greatly assist others in my field.

My work as a show choir arranger eventually led me to research Copyright Law and create a simplified handbook that could cater to all of the needs of the typical music educator. I recently completed this project and have digitally published it for free under the title of Solving the Copyright Conundrum: A Music Educator’s Guide to the Copyright Law.

This handbook is a very light read, but it covers how to handle almost any usage of copyrighted music. It also details the history of copyright and some specifics about how music is copyrighted to help readers understand why this law exists in our society.

Most importantly, it provides readers with a walkthrough to several possible licensing opportunities. Through the use of Solving the Copyright Conundrum, you can easily license your music and understand how proper licensure supports the continued production of new musical material for your classroom.

How to Apply the Material to Your Show Choir

Although this handbook is designed with all educators in mind, it can help you get your competitive show licensed and ready to go in no time. Let’s take a look at how Solving the Copyright Conundrum can help you with your Copyright needs.

Let’s say that we are looking to license a copyrighted song for an arrangement. Before we find the correct license, we need to decide what our exact use is with the song. We can make this decision by choosing which exclusive rights we intend to use. These rights are:

1) make copies

2) distribute copies

3) prepare derivative works (create an arrangement of the work)

4) perform publicly

5) display publicly

6) in the case of sound recordings, the right to perform publicly via digital transmission.

Since we are making an arrangement, we are preparing a derivative work of the Mark Mercer, Andover original copyrighted material. Therefore, we would need to obtain a license that grants permission to that exclusive right.

Now that we have chosen the correct license, we would need to find the correct publisher or publishers to contact for permission. We will need to search a performing rights organization’s repertory (such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC) in order to find the correct publisher. After locating the song and its publisher, we can move forward with contacting the publisher for permission. As you continue in the handbook, you will read about the procedures for obtaining sevearl different types of licenses.

Solving the Copyright Conundrum details the entire process for licensing an arrangement from start to finish, whether you choose to use a service to obtain permission or plan to contact a music publisher for permission on your own. That way, you have no worries about your upcoming season and get back to business as usual.

Remember – It’s All About the Students

Although the Copyright Law can be a lot to handle at first, it will come to you easier as you continue to interact with it more. The goal of Solving the Copyright Conundrum is to simplify this process so that you can get back to doing what you were meant to be doing – filling your students with all the joys and wonders of music. Once you get the hang of it, it will be business as usual in your music programs.

About the Author
Nick Brockamp owns Musicality Arrangements. You can learn more about the United States Copyright Law today by downloading your free copy of "Solving the Copyright Conundrum" at his site: