Dianne's Thoughts about Copyright


This week as I was scanning and uploading the music for our choir, my thoughts and my conscience began to prick. True, our library is full of music that Corvallis Community Choir apparently owns and true, our connection to OSU music library gives us access to their music library as well. What does that mean to our choir and, more personally, to our Director and our choir Librarian (currently me).


Here is what I think I know about the copyrights of music.

  • First, music is owned and the owner makes money through the sales and use of the owned music.
  • The law supports the rights of the music owner to make money. This we learned through the prosecution of people who were illegally downloading copyrighted music.
  • In order for us to legally perform a piece of music, we or (in our case) OSU must pay for the right to use it and have it and proof of ownership in possession.

That we know all this probably would mean that we could not plead ignorance if we do not pay attention to this issue. We have a lot of music that we inherited and I am not interested in researching every piece to see if we have rights to it. We will continue to use it, assuming we are using it legally.

How does this effect the choir? Here are my understandings and thoughts:

  • We cannot just help ourselves to music wherever we find it. We want and encourage members of the choir to make suggestions for our repertoire. For each piece of music, we will have to pay anywhere from $1 to $5, or more, for each member of the choir. We can make and use copies of music we buy or pay royalties on for each member of the choir. Individuals are free to sponsor/purchase a piece of music that has been approved by the Director.
  • We can make as many copies of a piece of music from OSU as OSU owns. We have had a bit of a problem with the actual owned music being handed out and never returned. To solve that problem, if we have 30 original scores from OSU, we can make and use 30 copies in lieu of handing out the originals. But, the originals need to be in our possession. That said, if any original scores are in your possession, it is your responsibility to return them when the choir's use of them is finished.
  • As for printing music from our website, our user ID and password give us some protection. That said, we must take care in accessing music online. I believe we are free to make copies from music in our library or OSU's library for the term or terms we plan to use them. That probably means that the music needs to be destroyed when we are finished with it. (Don't worry, I am not going to rifle through your recycling, trash, or shreddings, to make sure this is done. However, I wish to make it clear that this is your responsibility not the choir's nor mine.)
  • We cannot make copies and give them away to others nor can we keep copies in our personal files.

I appreciate that the choir is taking on the time and expense of printing out music. I also appreciate the members of the choir taking the copyrights seriously and acting responsibly in regards to the music and the music owner. Keeping the director, the choir, the choir board, and Librarian in good standing with the law is in everyone's best interests.


Updated: January 6, 2010