Music teachers have always debated about copyright and fair use issues. The blogosphere and recent podcasts have created new forums for this debate. Technology has certainly changed the framework of many copyright issues, but at its core, the debate continues.
My take on the whole thing involves a little of the golden rule, recognition of the law, a little hypocracy, and hopefully a lot of common sense.
It seems to me that there are a few principles which play into this issue.
Principle #1: Writers and publishers should profit from their work. I have no doubt we all understand that already.
Principle #2: Students will lose and destroy sheet music. I’ll never forget when one of my students brought me his music folder which his dog had peed all over. I very willingly replaced the whole thing, including the method book he had bought.
Principle #3: Teachers are caught in the middle. Our budgets sometimes don’t allow for frequent purchases of sheet music, yet we want to provide the best possible musical experience for our students. I also believe many of us sincerely want to support the writers and publishers whose music we enjoy.
With these principles in mind, here are a few of my own opinions about particular dilemmas.
Opinion #1: Sheet music purchases deserve a bigger percentage of our budget than we often allow. We are willing to spend $2,000 on a new instrument, but are we willing to spend $50 to buy a legal edition of a publication? We spend thousands more on band uniforms and dry cleaning, busses and hotels, instrument maintenance, but are we willing to spend money on our music? We wouldn’t shoplift reeds, valve oil, strings, or instruments from a music store, so why should we do effectively the same to publishers and writers?
Opinion #2: I recently heard a discussion about prodiving original scores to adjudicators at music festivals. One teacher felt it was unfair to expect teachers to pay the publisher again for copies of scores they had already purchased simply to provide originals to adjudicators. My feeling is that if the teacher has a high enough opinion of the work to use it as a festival selection or even a concert selection, the few extra dollars for legal scores are worth the price.
Opinion #3: Publishers need to come up with some sort of provision for teachers to distribute sheet music. This is where things get tricky, of course. Consider the format of various classroom publications: You’ve probably heard of “blackline masters” and “reproducibles.” Publishers of curriculum recognize that classroom teachers will need to photocopy the material, and it’s not cost effective to sell sets of 30-40 sheets of each page for students’ use. What about some sort of equivalent for sheet music?
What do you think? Does anyone here have experience with getting permission to make photocopies? Do you buy the required extra scores and parts when necessary? I don’t expect anyone here to confess to copying huge volumes of music, but what are your thoughts and practices?