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I buy enough octavos for each of my students, but I prefer to give them photocopies so they can mark them as they wish as well as providing some markings in the copy.  My band director mentioned that in the band sector, even if you own enough copies of a piece to hand out, photocopying is strictly prohibited under all circumstances, which got me thinking about whether what I am doing is illegal.  Can anybody offer some insight on this question?
Replies (6): Threaded | Chronological
on December 8, 2011 3:36pm
Yep, by photocopying your music, you're effectively extending the life of the originals. From what I've read on here before, it's definitely an infringement.
on December 8, 2011 7:05pm
Claudia:  The insight is simple; what you're doing is patently illegal.  Archiving legal copies to "save" them and performing from photocopies is strictly illegal.  And every COPY of every PAGE is a separate infringement, as is copying without including the copyright notice.
Under Fair Use there is one and only one exception: replacement copies which have been ordered but which have not yet arrived may be replaced by photocopies, but the photocopies must be destroyed once the legal copies arrive.  And with that one exception, it is completely illegal to PERFORM from photocopies, which is apparently what you intend if your students are marking their photocopies for performance.
I strongly recommend reading the actual copyright law, available on line, but if that puts you to sleep (as it may well do!) there are plenty of brief summaries for music educators available.  And there are NO differences between choral and band and orchestras under the law.
on December 9, 2011 5:51am
About 30 years ago a famous composer came to do a workshop at a community college. The college choir sang one of his pieces. After the performance, many of the students took their copy to the composer to get his autograph.
Alas, the copies were all xeroxed copies. The composer was shocked. I did not hear whether he gave out any autographs or not, but I suspect not!
The director should have been embarrassed, but I did not hear about that either. However, this really is a true story.
I shall not divulge the name of the composer or the college.
Susan Raccoli
on December 9, 2011 6:42am
Hi Claudia,
Would it be acceptable for students to lightly pencil in markings on the originals?
Maryanne Rumancik
on December 11, 2011 7:25am
On several occasions, when a publisher or retailer has informed me that a piece of music is backordered or there is a delay in shipping, I have made photocopies, marking "FOR REHEARSAL ONLY - TO BE DISCARDED" on each one, and rehearsed from them.  Then, when the printed music finally comes in, I (really do) collect and recycle all the rehearsal copies, first imploring my student singers to transfer their markings (which they don't). Although this feels a bit like "fair use", I am not sure that this practice is stricly legal, but it is necessary. My main concern is the awful waste of paper.
With out-of-print pieces, I am less noble. There is only so much one can borrow from others, and I am not going to restrict my programming decisions to what is currently available, especially since there is a yawning gulf between the music that I want to perform and the music that publishers think I should perform.
On this subject, we all need to bear the music-publishing vicious circle in mind: the more choruses use photocopied music, the less money publishers make, the more pieces go out of print, and the less likely it is that what is in print will be available in the necessary quantities in a timely manner, which in turn makes it more likely for choruses to use photocopied music.
Nathaniel G. Lew
on December 11, 2011 9:54am
Hi, Nathaniel.  In fact, making copies of music for which legal copies have been ordered IS the single exception for photocopying under the Fair Use Guidelines, and what you are doing is perfectly legitimate.
Regarding POP music, don't forget that it isn't what publishers think you SHOULD be performing, it's what they think they can SELL!!  Refuse to buy poor music or poor editions and they will respond, but only if they CAN sell what we consider to be high quality.  I happen to believe that if publishers allow music to go POP they should immediately lose their copyright assignments, but that's not likely to happen any time soon.  U.S. copyright law (unlike some parts of European law) is based on property rights, and publishers treat those copyrights as their property, to dispose of as they will. 
All the best,
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