RPMDA Copyright Session Summary

by Ted Piechoncinski, Indiana State University

Copyright and its implications for the print music industry have been hot topics for the past several years, and Ted Piechoncinski led a lively discussion at our Atlanta convention about possible strategies for dealers and publishers in our industry to consider.

The main ideas are as follows:

  1. FAQs: group discussed that it would be helpful to develop general FAQs in order to make basic copyright-related information available.  Such FAQs could be designed to accommodate a variety of constituencies, including parents, students, administrators, retail employees, and music educators.  The FAQs would have to be general enough that they could not be construed as legal advice, but entries could also contain resources for the reader to find more specific advice elsewhere.
  2. NASM: it was discussed with great enthusiasm that there should be inroads made with NASM (National Association of Schools of Music), the accrediting agency for university departments and schools of music around the country, whereby standards for accreditation might be expanded to specifically include instruction to students and faculty, and compliance with all copyright laws and regulations.  Every ten years, university music departments/schools of music undergo an extensive and intensive re-accreditation process that involves a detailed self-study followed by an on-site, multi-day visit by a team of reviewers examining all facets of the department/school as to compliance with NASM standards, and, finally, a concluding report stating any deficiencies that would keep a department/school from receiving its re-accreditation.  The road to approaching NASM with this kind of idea is not an easy one as the organization is somewhat set in its ways, standards, and procedures; but, that being said, the area of copyright compliance is certainly a timely and legally sensitive enough of an issue to warrant attention by the organization and the inclusion of recognition for compliance in their standards for accreditation. Ted Piechocinski, (facilitator of the group discussion and RPMDA presenter on copyright) an active faculty member in the Indiana State University School of Music, is very enthusiastic about this idea and believes an approach to the NASM leadership is fully possible and warranted.  He is very willing to be a point person on this idea and to make the initial approach through his administration at ISU.  The RPMDA discussion group was very enthusiastic about this idea as well and thought it has great potential.
  3. Retailer Forums/Workshops: The idea was discussed that retailers could host in-store forums/workshops for music educators to give them valuable and critical information regarding copyright compliance.  While certainly a great idea, and one that music retailers are accustomed to in their array of customer-oriented offerings, it was also quickly pointed out by participants that music educators’ schedules are most often so tightly packed with school activities that it would be difficult to ask them to try and fit in yet another commitment to their busy schedules.  The solution could be offering such forums/workshops in “off-season” times, but, again, that poses difficulties in that educators might be hesitant to make such a commitment during a time when they are recuperating from their busy school lives.  A possible solution might be to tether a copyright-oriented discussion/presentation to another forum/workshop that music educators might normally attend, such as rules/regulations presentations by state music organizations or in-store presentations by visiting guest artists or presenters.
  4. Publisher Print Licenses: The idea was broached that perhaps music publishers could re-examine the idea of including limited print licenses within their publications that would allow music educators to make needed extra copies of parts without acquiring a separate license (or purchase of separate extra parts).  This is not a new idea, as some publishers over the years have provided this kind of included license, but such inclusion has been sporadic.  Of course, the concern from publishers is the very real possibility that music educators could perpetually use the publication in question without ever having to repurchase it or, worse, that they would indiscriminately print parts for colleagues at other schools, thus denying the publisher the opportunity for another sale to another school.  It was discussed that perhaps these concerns could be assuaged if the publisher offered such print license for a premium price to the publication.  There was not an overwhelming embrace of this idea from participants in the discussion, but there was agreement that something needs to be done to make the acquisition of extra parts easier for music educators while, at the same time, not causing undue hardships for music publishers.  At this point, there seems to be no standardized method of response to this problem from publishers.