Songfile® — The Harry Fox Agency’s Songfile is an easy and fast way for those who plan to make and distribute 2,500 copies or less of their recordings to obtain the necessary mechanical licenses for cover versions of songs. Licenses can be obtained for CDs, cassettes, LPs, or permanent digital downloads. Under U.S. Copyright law, recordings of student performances must be properly licensed.
The MPA encourages its publishers that are not already HFA affiliates to register their catalogs for mechanical licensing through Songfile and also provides marketing support. Through Songfile, educators can obtain licenses for CDs, cassettes, LPs, and permanent digital downloads from HFA’s entire database of over 2.3 million songs in all genres. Licensing royalties from Songfile are paid to publishers on a commission-free basis.
Executives from the leading music education, mechanical licensing, and serious/educational music publishing organizations, The Harry Fox Agency (HFA), the National Association for Music Education, The Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), and the Music Publishers’ Association (MPA) have formed an unprecedented collaboration to connect America’s music educators with the music catalogs they need to license when they record student performances.
Performance Rights for NAfME members
Through an agreement with ASCAP and BMI, NAfME (or MEA) sponsored groups are granted performance rights of music managed by these organizations. (This covers only performances sponsored by NAfME or federated state associations of NAfME.) However, if members wish to record their students’ performance of any work, permission must be obtained through Harry Fox Agency. For more information, see NAfME Member Benefit Eases Performance Licensing or visit the Harry Fox Agency or the National Music Publishers’ Association.
Music Licensing and Publishing Organizations
Music Publishers’ Association of the United States — Includes a Copyright Resource Center which offers forms needed to obtain permission to arrange music, copy out-of-print music, or report a copyright violation. Also offers documents on copyright issues and a list of additional Web links, and an FAQ section.
The Harry Fox Agency — HFA was established by the National Music Publishers’ Association to provide an information source, clearinghouse, and monitoring service for licensing musical copyrights. HFA licenses the largest percentage of the uses of music in the United States on CDs, digital services, records, tapes, and imported phonorecords. See HFA’s Licensing and FAQ lists.
ASCAP — Information on copyright and performing rights.
- Licensing FAQ
- Internet Licensing
- ASCAP Clearance Express — (ACE is a database of song titles licensed by ASCAP in the United States)
- Fairness in Music Licensing
- History of Music Licensing
- Resources on Copyright and Songwriting
Understanding Copyright Law
The United States Copyright Law: A Guide for Music Educators — A brief history of the 1976 revision of copyright law, rights (and limitations of these rights) of copyright owners, copyright duration, penalties for infringement, plus resources for duplicating out-of-print works; arranging, performing and recording rights; and fair use guidelines. Revised 2003.
Posting Your Musical Performance on SchoolTube: A How-To Copyright Guide — Learn how to safely and legally share your musical performance on sites like SchoolTube, an educational media sharing site.
Mechanical Licensing & You: What You Need to Know Before Recording Your School’s Performances.”)
Copyright Law: What Music Teachers Need to Know — An overview of fair use and guidelines for reproducing, recording, arranging, distributing, and performing copyrighted works.
Licensing and Other Copyright Questions — You know you need some kind of permission for using other people’s music in your classes. So what do you do next?
MEA Managers Webinar on Copyright — Includes participation of a U.S. Copyright Office attorney, who presents information and responds to questions. Covers a variety of copyright issues, including
- Fair Use exemptions
- Licensing a musical work for various uses
- Parents recording concerts
- Using photocopies of sheet music for competitions
- Web presentation (streaming/on demand)
- Sheet music excerpts in PDF for student download
- Recording an accompaniment part for students to practice with
- DVDs of concerts
- Using music excerpts in publications
Here are some articles on copyright of interest to music teachers:
- Copyright: The Public Domain Maze
- Copyrights: Arranging, Adapting, Transcribing
- Copyright: Recording and Selling Student Performances
- Copyright: Changing Lyrics
- Copyright: Performance Exemptions
- Copyright: Performance Licenses
- Copyright: Parody
- Got Permission to Upload That Video?
Fair Use and Copyright Law
The United States Copyright Office — The U.S. Copyright Office site contains a great deal of information on copyright law and pending legislation. They have several publications available including brochures, fact sheets, and reports and studies, as well as an FAQ section.
Stanford University Libraries on Copyright & Fair Use — Information on copyright issues including current legislation, additional resources, and an overview of copyright law.
Public Domain Information
Public Domain Music — A reference site to help identify public domain songs and public domain music
Frequently Asked Questions
Must a student purchase a second piece of music for his or her accompanist?
Accompanists must have original music to play from. Copying a single page to alleviate a difficult page turn can be justified, but copying the entire work is copyright infringement.
During juries and/or recitals, if a student has the original and the faculty wants to follow along with the music for assessment and grading purposes, may copies be made?
Copying may be permissible, but ONLY if permission is granted by the copyright holders. Write to the publisher and explain your situation. Make sure to get the permission in writing. And remember, unauthorized photocopies are copyright infringements.
(If permission is not granted, perhaps students could borrow copies among their peers, from their teachers, or at a music library.)
I’m doing research on a topic related to the effects of music on children and want to use a particular CD. Do I need to purchase a CD for each participant, or can I simply purchase one and make copies?
Copyright for music and recordings is no different than it is for books or plays. Buying only one CD and making copies is a copyright infringement. To use a CD for research purposes, contact the copyright holders to receive permission. More information can be obtained from the Music Publishers Association.
Can our band legally sell videotaped copies of its concerts?
A single copy of a videotaped performance of your ensemble can be made to keep on file for reference or review. 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. You will also need permission from parents to have their children videotaped.
Is a public school district allowed to use recorded music of one of their school ensembles in a publication? The publication may be a TV advertisement or a CD for a business in the area. The music would be purchased according to copyright.
The school must license the music properly with a synchronization license and a mechanical license. Mechanical licenses are available from the Harry Fox Agency. For synchronization licenses, contact the publisher directly (publisher information is available on the ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC sites). If another business is used, make sure that business is responsible for all licensing. Also, be sure to check local law regulations.
Find more information on these questions and other copyright issues in the MEA Managers Webinar on Copyright.
Creativity in the Classroom — A program designed to encourage students to respect intellectual property and develop a greater awareness of the value of their creative work in a variety of subject areas. Lessons demonstrate how students can label their creative work with the copyright symbol, the year, and their name, just as they see on any published, professional creative work.
National Copyright Awareness Week — The Copyright Society of the USA presents Copyright Awareness Week (CAW), every March. The goal of the event is to teach students basic concepts about copyright. Teacher curriculum materials are available.
Donny the Downloader program for middle school students — produced by ASCAP and i–SAFE
Note: NAfME does not presume to give legal advice. If you have technical questions about possible legalities of a copyright, speak to your school’s principal or district’s music supervisor for advice on legal counsel, or contact Harry Fox Agency or the Music Publishers’ Association.
National Association for Music Education
Copyright Society of the USA
Music Teachers National Association
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Association of Elementary School Principals
National School Boards Association
U.S. Register of Copyrights
American Bar Association