Sheet music is printed music as opposed to recorded or performed music. With recent advances in digital technology it is now possible to material files over the internet without violating copyright laws including sheet music.
Sharing of music over the internet has its pros and cons. For example, Eleanor, finds the sheet music to stars and the moon by the great Jason Robert Brown online and decides to perform it for her talent show at school. Bill who is the audience has never heard of Jason Robert Brown or the song but he likes it. He decides to download entire Songs for a New World album off iTunes after the show. He also tells his friends about it and they decide to go and watch one of Jasons shows the next time it comes around. If Eleanor had not found the sheet music for free she would have probably performed a different song but since she did how much money does Jason brown make from her getting the music for free. Sheet music artist should stop looking at free online sharing as copyright infringement but as a form of free marketing. Many rock bands including Nine Inch Nails have taken up this point of view.
According to the copyright act of 1976, copyright on music in the USA is automatically created when the composition is fixed in any tangible means of expression such as a piece of paper or a computer disk drive. The composer should also include a copyright notice in his music. However, the copyright should be registered at the U.S. Copyright office before the first display of the composition. In case of copyright infringement, the original composer has the right to file a legal suit. The composer usually sells either half or all of his copyright to a sheet music publisher to publish the composition. When you purchase sheet music you only own the paper and ink and you need written permission to legally reproduce the music in any form. In the us copyright law gives protection during the life of the author and 70 years after then the music is considered to be in the public domain. This however does not apply to all countries as copyright durations differ in different countries.
Under copyright law teachers currently enjoy many exemptions from prosecution for the illegal use and distribution of copyrighted material. However, teachers should know where the legal lines are drawn. The bottom line is, before using any printed or prerecorded material for classroom purposes, teachers must evaluate whether the use falls under one of the Copyright Acts specific exemptions. In the case where the desire educational use falls outside the exemptions provided by the copyright act teachers must first request for permission. For print material such as sheet music the teacher is supposed to request for permission from the individual print publisher. If the music required I out of print the teacher must also contact the publisher to acquire an original copy and any copies needed. It is important to note that the classroom exemptions stated in the copyright act only apply to material that has been acquired legally. Download the material illegally and you are liable to face penalties under the constitution. The penalties range from $750$30,000 but more serious infringements can lead to fines of up to $250000 and imprisonment for up to five years.
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