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Ethics of borrowing music (Church choirs)

Our Church Choir has a limited budget and every penny is sacred!  Is it considered ethical to ask to borrow music from time to time from other Church choirs in our Community? ( We are not asking to perform the borrowed music outside of a Church service)...of course this could be a reciprocal arrangement too.   I feel that the 'Spirit' of a composer/publisher would prefer to have their music heard rather than be unplayed because of budget restraints in these circumstances.  Can you give some guidance, or share your experiences?
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on September 8, 2013 3:25pm
Just an opinion, and not a legal one: yes it's fine.   And I'm a composer who feels somewhat strongly on many issues of rights and copyrights.
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on September 8, 2013 3:31pm
Borrowing, yes. Copying, no.
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on September 8, 2013 5:24pm
Schools borrow back and forth (esp. within school systems...), churches and temples borrow, youth orchestras and youth choirs borrow... Personally, I have lent out music that I have purchased to students and local music groups on numerous occasions.
Perhaps someone can explain what the problem would be?
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on September 8, 2013 7:14pm
I agree Ronald. I can't imagine anyone objecting to borrowing or lending music. Two choir programs with limited budgets, sharing sets of music with each other would be a great way to save money.
Of course it's not legal to copy music but there's no law against borrowing and trading.
on September 9, 2013 4:54am
Agree with our colleagues have said thus far with one caveat:  if music is destroyed or so substantially modified in the course of use by the borrowing community, they replace.  Now, one or two copies, you raise an eyebrow and waggle a finger; more than that, it's ethical - the point of the discussion - to not only "offer" to replace the music, but actually to do so, if the piece is still in print.  Based on the comments thus far, I know you would likely agree.
on September 9, 2013 6:07am
The more music is performed the better– for 'audience', choirs and composers.
But the more it is used, the sooner replacement copies will be needed.
If a church (or choir or school...)  makes a regular practice of lending music, perhaps it could do so for a small fee which would be used specifically for the purchase (not copying!) of replacement copies.
This would be both legal and unquestionable ethical.
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on September 10, 2013 6:10am
Another thought is to borrow from the Bagaduce Music Lending Library in Blue Hill, ME (near Bar Harbor).  There is a membership cost to join, and then there's a loan fee, so it may be cheaper to borrow locally where you can. 
on September 10, 2013 2:05pm
I borrow music for major works frequently.  It saves us money and honestly, it saves us space.  (Scores for major works take up valuable shelf space in my music library. I'd prefer not owning and storing these scores that I'll only perform on a recurring basis every several years.) My only regret, accompanied by some feeling of guilt, is that for living composers, in borrowing, I'm not supporting them by purchasing their music.  To counter this, I wonder if publishers should consider offering major works on both a rental and a sales basis.  That way, living composers would benefit more from the performance of their music.  
And by the way, I'm still looking for copies of In terra pax by Gerald Finzi.  (NYChoral Society happens to be performing it this year.)  Please reply if you have ideas. (I'll inquire with bagaduce; thanks.)
Tom Brown  
on September 11, 2013 5:04am
One consideration that I have not seen mentioned here is the copyright owner and/or the publisher of the music. If the music is out of print then it is generally easy to obtain a permission to reproduce copies, but if the score is still available, then the publishers may sqwak about losing sales due to borrowing. There are quite a few lawsuits going on now in the music industry over this issue as well as the rights to actual recorded music. Legality aside, the question was about the ethics behind the issue of borrowing. Is it commonplace? Absolutely. I have to admit that I have both borrowed and lent without ever really considering the ethics of the act. However, since most music is covered by copyright (as opposed to borrowing your neighbor's lawnmower or hammer) we do need to keep in mind that the only way publishers - and in turn the composers - get paid is if the music is actually purchased. Great question though --
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on September 12, 2013 4:30am
Most of us borrow music from libraries or friends at some time although I do, like many people, make a point of purchasing as often as I can. I am concerned about the ethics however. If one borrows a book from a library the author does receive some small payment. If one borrows music the composer gets nothing. This does not seem fair or logical. I would feel happier borrowing if this situation was resolved. We all welcome new music so why not show our appreciation by campaigning for fairness for our composers. Mavis Fletcher UK
on September 12, 2013 2:29pm
Good discussion, good points.   One thing I have never understood, or condoned, is for ACDA (Choralnet) to sponsor a marketplace for borrowing (the classifieds).   It's one thing to act locally, with your neighbors, it's another to be subverting the living of A) composers B) publishers and C) music retailers by trading back and forth, with strangers, works that are in copyright and in print.  
Surely the advertisers here at Choralnet (JW Pepper, are you listening?) have an opinion.
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on September 12, 2013 6:35pm
And now a word from your ChoralNet Moderators---there was quite a lengthy discussion on this very subject a while back
These very concerns were addressed.
Marie Grass Amenta, ChoralNet Moderator on duty today
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