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Video Copyright

Our music department website is being updated.  The administration would like to include video of the choirs in concert and rehearsal.  What are the legal (copyright) considerations?  Can we show videos of music not in the public domain?  Do we need permission? 
Thanks for your help.
Wyant Morton
California Lutheran University
Replies (4): Threaded | Chronological
on November 13, 2013 5:56am
There is a gray area here. Most people post on youtube. If you are performing a song that is copyright protected, but you are doing your own arrangement of it without using any backing tracks or the original recording, youtube and/or the publisher may ignore blocking the video. What youtube does is send you a notice that this song is a copyrighted song according to their catalogue. Often this is sufficient. What will happen is that there will appear next to your upload a link to the artist and the song for people to buy the original song. Youtube allows you to make money from videos that are your property. You will NOT be able to use that video for making money.
Now, if you want peace of mind (and who doesn't!), you can license the song here: 
This will allow you to do a couple of things:
1) You can list your version of the songs as covers (legally), thereby avoiding any possibility of a lawsuit.
2) You can use these covers as a fundraiser for your music program by selling it on itunes, amazon etc.
Most people will opt to do the former which is just upload it. Since most of the type recording you speak of are not pro quality (everything with mics and mixed), I believe youtube will look the other way.  Good luck!
on November 15, 2013 4:36am
As a publisher, here's what I know so far:
Step one: See if the sheet music is in the public domain.  Here's a great resource for how to determine that:
Step two:  If it's under copyright, don't panic.  Just get permission and sleep well at night.  Distributing a video of a copyrighted work (whether in rehearsal or performance) is technically something that requires a license between the distributor (you) and the sheet music publisher, and legally involves you obtaining a synchronization license from that copyright holder -- or -- some kind of waiver from them instead.  So if you are uploading the videos to your own server for play-on-demand (not a livestream -- an important distinction), you must contact the copyright holder.  The rate is not set by congress (not like a mechanical rate).  It's negotiable, but in my experience it is tiny -- literally pocket change, if the publisher charges you at all.  Most publishers are glad to be asked, and -- by now -- have a policy in place where they can press 'send' on a template email reply explaining that they have opted in favor of you advertising their music for them for free, rather than wasting time drawing up a synch license and invoice.
YouTube (right now) is a bit of a different story, like Seta said above.  To try to shield you from this process of obtaining permission from each copyright holder, YouTube has employed a crafty system of Content ID to automatically add the song info and/or ads onto your video.  But YouTube (as is my understanding) is doing this ONLY when publishers opt-in to that deal.  YouTube will apparently be expanding/changing this soon, for a three year trial period, so the best advice is to just get permission from the sheet music publisher anyway.  The publisher may have opted in to YouTube's Content ID system for a limited time and their terms could change unbeknownst to you.  Then you could be fined or sued.  So just have a proper paper (or email) trail. 
Getting permission may take a little time, but it should be painless.  Search the publisher's name and word "permissions" and send them a request to upload an 'interactive streaming video of a live performance.'  Include the composer's name, the copyright information, and -- if you want to be thorough -- estimate how many 'plays' you expect to get each quarter.  Boom.  Most likely you'll get a template response from them that will tell you exactly what to do next.  And if they don't walk you through it, just follow these best practices:
●    In the video title:
Include the song title, *composer’s name*, and ensemble name.  Something like: "Alleluia (Randall Thompson) -- West High School Chorus"
●    In the video itself:
Add a banner in the beginning, also stating the song title and composer’s name (this ensures attribution to the composer even if the video is embedded elsewhere).  Like this.
●    In the description: 
Name the conductor, performing ensemble, names of any accompanists or soloists, and the date of this live rehearsal or performance
Include the text: “Uploaded with permission of [name of publisher].”
●    Extra credit:  Let the composer know about it!  If the music is not self-published, the composer rarely knows when his or her work is performed, especially if it's performed by a school or church which is exempt from Performance Royalty (ASCAP/BMI) reporting.  But a composer can actually make a few bucks (at no cost to you, through their PRO) when you let them know you've performed their piece.  So, this step is not required, but it's really really nice.  And the composer might just love your video (!) and want to link to it themselves and then will probably also want to be your new best friend and share their lemon bar recipe.
See? Then you'll have a new video, a new friend, AND a lemon bar recipe!  So much better than living in fear.
Good luck!
Abbie Betinis Music Co., LLC
President, Independent Music Publishers Cooperative
Applauded by an audience of 2
on November 16, 2013 6:34am
Abbie--- great answer.
Here's another, simple way to list the credit info once you receive permission:
by Randall Thompson
© Copyright 1940 by E.C Schirmer Music Company
used by permission
performed by West High School Chorus
on November 16, 2013 7:01am
excellent Abbie! I also second the comment regarding youtube. 
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