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What You Can and Can't Do

Music and multimedia copyright can be a very complex area to navigate. A single musical work can have two separate copyrights: the composition (music and lyrics) and the recorded performance of the work. And the original composer or lyricist or performer doesn't necessarily own the copyright after it has been published.

Use of music, video, or other multimedia in a face-to-face class is handled differently than in an online class.  Use of multi-media in an online class is restricted to a "reasonable and limited portion of the work", usually no more than 10%, while an face-to-face class may use the material in total.

Copying sheet music

Consider the four factors of fair use before making a copy. Some additional details about when copying sheet music is prohibited or allowed are provided by the Music Publishers Association website:

  1. Copying to avoid purchase
  2. Copying music for any kind of performance (but note the emergency exception below)
  3. Copying without including a copyright notice
  4. Copying to create anthologies or compilations
  5. Reproducing materials designed to be consumable (such as workbooks, standardized tests, and answer sheets)
  6. Charging students beyond the actual cost involved in making copies as permitted above
  7. Copying materials obtained from another library other than UW-Green Bay or materials with limited use license.
  1. Emergency copying to replace purchased copies which for any reason are not available for an imminent performance provided purchased replacement copies shall be substituted in due course.
  2. For academic purposes other than performance, multiple copies of excerpts of works may be made, provided that the excerpts do not comprise a part of the whole which would constitute a performable unit such as a section, movement, or aria but in no case more than 10% of the whole work. The number of copies shall not exceed one copy per pupil.
  3. Printed copies which have been purchased may be edited OR simplified provided that the fundamental character of the work is not distorted or the lyrics, if any, altered or lyrics added if none exist.
  4. A single copy of recordings of performance by students may be made for evaluation or rehearsal purposes and may be retained by the educational institution or individual teacher.
  5. A single copy of a sound recording (such as a tape, disc or cassette) of copyrighted music may be made from sound recordings owned by an educational institution or an individual teacher for the purpose of constructing aural exercises or examinations and may be retained by the educational institution or individual teacher. (This pertains only to the copyright of the music itself and not to any copyright which may exist in the sound recording.)

Public Performance Rights

Public performance rights are the legal rights required to show media to an audience. These rights are not usually included when a library or individual purchases a DVD or video. Here's what you need to know to legally show films to an audience:

  • presenting media outside the classroom (for example, to a student organization)
  • presenting media in a public location that is open to the public (for example, showing a film to your class in the commons)
  • presenting media to a public audience (for example, a film series, or at a public lecture)
  • viewing media at home in the company of family and friends
  • presenting media that is relevant to course content in a face to face classroom to officially registered students

Some documentary and educational videos provide public performance rights at the moment of purchase. Though each license will vary, in general, showing the film publicly is possible when conditions listed in the license are met. The license is available from the library catalog.  Ask the librarian if you have any questions.

  1. Search for the title in the library catalog and click on it.
  2. Click on or scroll down to Get It.
  3. A Note will appear below each item with public performance rights.

Note: Includes public performance rights 

These kinds of restrictions may be included in the license:

  • there can be no admission admission charge
  • the audience must consist of less than 50 persons
  • there can be no public advertising of the screening

If the film you want to show does not already have public performance rights, you can try to purchase them from the copyright holder, the distributor, or from a rights-management organization. Some companies that sell public performance licenses include:

Finding Music You Can Use

This guide contains links to many sites with freely usable Creative Commons and Public Domain music and sound effects.

Web Resources

Music Copyright Issues

Multimedia Copyright Issues