I am struggling to find information on using popular music in public K-12 schools. I have the following areas I am trying to find information about:
1. Can a teacher use a Spotify account in their classroom?
2. Can a teacher use music with face-to-face instruction?
3. Can a service provider (counselor, therapist, social worker...) use music with students?
4. Can music be played during sporting events
5. Can music be used as part of the morning announcements
Welcome to "Back to School 2021"...a year unlike any other!
I have weathered many K-12 "back-to-schools." For instance, second grade back-to-school, for me, was in 1980. For my son, it was in 2010. And for my daughter, it was just a few days before I sat down to write this.
That 1980-to-2021 time span has allowed me to realize two things:
Realization #1: Erasers smell the same in 2021 as they did in 1980; and
Realization #2: Back-to-school 2021 kicked off in a world that has gone through a lot of rapid and (at times) de-stabilizing change.
The good news about realization #2 is that the law--which tends to change much more slowly than the world around it-- is much the same. So, for this answer, where we can, we'll be linking back to prior "Ask the Lawyer" answers, and where there is something new, we'll add it.
QUESTION 1: Can a teacher use a Spotify account in their classroom?
ANSWER: Not unless the license has changed to allow more than "personal use." For more on that, see "Using Streaming Services (Hulu, Netflix) in the Classroom - 4/17/2019" at https://www.wnylrc.org/ask-the-lawyer/raqs/79
QUESTION 2: Can a teacher use music with face-to-face instruction?
ANSWER: Yes, so long as the music is part of the instruction, and the copy of the song was legally obtained.
QUESTION 3: Can a service provider (counselor, therapist, social worker...) use music with students?
ANSWER: There is no automatic permission or exception to the copyright law that allows a mental health service provider to use recordings, sheet music, or other copyright-protected property for purposes of licensed service.
QUESTION 4: Can music be played during sporting events?
If the recorded or streamed music is protected by copyright, it should only be played with a license.
NOTE: Public schools will want to consult their lawyers about their risks in this regard now that the U.S. Supreme Court has (arguably) struck down the ability to sue "the state" and its subdivisions for copyright infringement.
5. Can music be used as part of the morning announcements?
If the music is protected by copyright, it should only be played with a license.
NOTE: Public schools will want to consult their lawyers about their risks in this regard now that the U.S. Supreme Court has (arguably) struck down the ability to sue "the state" and its subdivisions for copyright infringement.
And with that, I wish you a joyous back-to-school.
 Perhaps this is why I found the familiar aroma of new "Pink Pearl" erasers comforting.
 This is allowed per Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act, which states that "performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction" is not infringement.
 As I write that, it strikes me that such services are so important, ensuring the resource can be used legally is important. There are a number of ways to do that, depending on the precise circumstances.
Is it permissible to make digital copies of choral music that is legally owned by the institution to students in choral and instrumental ensembles? Some students may be studying remotely and mailing physical copies may result in lost or non-returned copies.
There are four ways it can be permissible:
1. Check the license from the publisher and see if the purchase of the physical copies came with any digitization/duplication permission. You'd be surprised how many rights you buy (or don't buy) when you make that hard copy purchase. Publishers take a variety of approaches on this, and an individual publisher's permissions may change from work-to-work, so confirm (or rule out) this approach for each work.
2. If the license does not allow making digital copies, contact the publisher, and see if it can be expanded. Publishers are now getting many requests like this and may be ready with a simple (and affordable) solution.
3. I am not a fan of them (they are as outdated and as risky as the Ford Pinto), but the "CONTU" guidelines speak to this issue. I am including the relevant guidelines, as presented in Copyright Office Circular 21, under this answer. If one of your precise needs fits one of the "permissible uses" listed in Circular 21, you are all set.
4. Speaking of CONTU, the first "permissible use" listed in the guidelines may help you out here, with a slight twist on your scenario. In the event that the physical copies listed in the question are mailed out and not returned as feared, the guidelines allow for emergency copying after the fact (of course, they also require that at some point, you purchase more physical copies, but at least you can get the copies to the students).
Those are my four solutions, based on conventional approaches and current case law.
I'll also throw out a "fifth option" based on a slightly different approach, which, depending on some precise facts, could work for faculty teaching choral classes:
The 110 Solution
Copyright Section 110 allows an academic choral group (if meeting as part of a class) to display "a work in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session," during an online class/rehearsal.
How can that help with the member's scenario?
If the class was still meeting physically, Copyright Section 110(a) would allow us to perform the song and to display the music on the in-class smart board. In the online environment, the same performance and display could happen via the internet, as allowed by 110(b) (the "TEACH Act")—again, so long as only the amount "typically" displayed in class was shown.
Whether in-person or online, the rehearsal would include review of the different parts for bass, tenor, alto and soprano, with the relevant music displayed on the screen. While an academic institution can't tell people to take screen shots of the music displayed for rehearsal purposes, students who want to snap screenshots of a class to take notes is a fact of modern-day academia. If a student who was told to purchase a copy of their part uses this method to ensure they are practicing on an incremental basis, that's out of the school's control, and the student can make their own claim to fair use.
This type of solution should never be used as a deliberate alternative to the purchase of individual copies. But so long as the display is incremental and truly a part of the in-class experience, it is a viable option.
I wish all music faculty approaching the Fall 2020 semester many good performances, whether virtual, or face-to-face. These are tough days for people who love to sing, who enjoy the community of a choir, and who need to hone their vocal art in collaboration with others. Hunting for music should not add to the burden, and with a few tricks and an awareness of the limits of the law, it doesn't have to.
Guidelines for Educational Uses of Music
The purpose of the following guidelines is to state the minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use under Section 107 of H.R. 2223.
The parties agree that the conditions determining the extent of permissible copying for educational purposes may change in the future; that certain types of copying permitted under these guidelines may not be permissible in the future, and conversely that in the future other types of copying not permitted under these guidelines may be permissible under revised guidelines.
Moreover, the following statement of guidelines is not intended to limit the types of copying permitted under the standards of fair use under judicial decision and which are stated in Section 107 of the Copyright Revision Bill. There may be instances in which copying which does not fall within the guidelines stated below may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use.
Reproduction of Copyrighted Works
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, single or 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 section¹, movement or aria, but in no case more than 10 percent 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 performances 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.)
1 Copying to create or replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works.
2 Copying of or from works intended to be “consumable” in the course of study or of teaching such as workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and answer sheets and like material.
3 Copying for the purpose of performance, except as in A(1) above.
4 Copying for the purpose of substituting for the purchase of music, except as in A(1) and A(2) above.
5 Copying without inclusion of the copyright notice which appears on the printed copy. (iv)
Discussion of Guidelines
The Committee appreciates and commends the efforts and the cooperative and reasonable spirit of the parties who achieved the agreed guidelines on books and periodicals and on music. Representatives of the American Association of University Professors and of the Association of American Law Schools have written to the Committee strongly criticizing the guidelines, particularly with respect to multiple copying, as being too restrictive with respect to classroom situations at the university and graduate level. However, the Committee notes that the Ad Hoc group did include representatives of higher education, that the stated “purpose of the … guidelines is to state the minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use” and that the agreement acknowledges “there may be instances in which copying which does not fall within the guidelines … may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use.” The Committee believes the guidelines are a reasonable interpretation of the minimum standards of fair use. Teachers will know that copying within the guidelines is fair use. Thus, the guidelines serve the purpose of fulfilling the need for greater certainty and protection for teachers. The Committee expresses the hope that if there are areas where standards other than these guidelines may be appropriate, the parties will continue their efforts to provide additional specific guidelines in the same spirit of good will and give and take that has marked the discussion of this subject in recent months
 Checking a license is not an exact science. Some publisher's use a catch-all that is included on their invoices. Others put the information right on the music. Others like to make you really hunt for it, but it is usually part of the sale transaction. This is why, when making a purchase of music, it is good to take a screen shot or save the paperwork related to the purchase.
 Note: To my knowledge this work does not exist, but it is on my wish list of music to hear. I love it when genres collide.
 This new version would be a "derivative work" based on the original, and have its own copyright protection as a musical composition.
 We have reached the limit of my choral knowledge. Is there separate sheet music for mezzo-soprano and counter-tenor? Probably. I am sorry, I quit choir in 7th grade.
Teachers at our school like to use pictures from movies to decorate their doors. What rules apply to this?
At "Ask the Lawyer," we are frequently amazed at the diversity of the copyright questions we get. When we started the service, we thought we'd often refer people back to answers that had already been covered.
But librarians always find a way to switch things up!
What are the new variables this time?
"Doors" and "images from movies."
We'll start with "images from movies."
Under the Copyright Act, the owner of the copyright controls the right to display still images from movies. So the member is right to flag this as a possible concern.
But we can potentially rest easy on that point, because educators have some special rights under the Copyright Act--if the material was legally obtained, and if the material is used as part of the curriculum--and "displaying" images from motion pictures is one of them.
Or, as Congress puts it in Section 110(a) the Copyright Act:
[P]erformance or display of [one legally obtained] work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction[is an exception to infringement].
So, under 110, here is the analysis to answer the member's question:
If the answer to both is "yes," then the answer is: decorate the heck out of that door.
Having said that, I appreciate that the two factors set out above are not always easy to answer. Frustratingly, there is no one-size-fits-all definition of either "teaching activities" or "lawful copies." That said, using some grown-up versions of famous characters from my childhood, here are some examples of the "wrong" and the "right" way.
The wrong way to use 110
Teacher Mr. Goofus does a Google image search for "Elsa," captures a bunch of screenshots from "Frozen," prints out color copies. He puts them on the outside of the classroom door, together with a sign saying "Let it go, only a few weeks until Winter Break!"
The right way to use 110
Teacher Mr. Gallant uses the copy of the DVD owned by the school library to create a screenshot of the scene where Elsa is discovered to have magical powers. He puts it on the inside of the classroom door, along with a sign saying: "This month we'll be reading the Scarlett Letter and discussing depictions of overcoming social alienation in popular culture."
What do these examples show? The more integrated with the course work, and the more legitimate the copy, the more the teacher (and the school) can claim protection under 110. (NOTE: Mr. Gallant could claim protection under "Fair Use.")
Which brings me back to the other variable: the door. For a 110(a) analysis, what side of the door the movie picture is on is (potentially) relevant, since if the content is on the outside of the door, it's slightly harder to claim the material is part of "face-to-face teaching." That said, if the link to an actual lesson plan is clearly perceptible (like in the "Gallant" example), I think it could work.
And there you have it.
I have noticed this "door decoration" phenomenon when picking my kids up from school. My poor children never have a moment that is Harry Potter® or Elsa®-free.
But I get it, images from movies are a way to brighten the environment and get kids engaged. Fortunately for the teachers of this world, if you follow its formula, Section 110(a) makes it okay. This is good, since after taking a quick look, we could not find a non-paywall source for such images.
But make sure the use is part of the curriculum! Thanks for a thoughtful question.
 Before committing to this example, I checked to see if 1) "Goofus and Gallant" was still "a thing;" and 2) if modern norms of child psychology had decided they were based on any harmful tropes. Wow, was a fun ten-minute tangent. As the children's librarians out there already no doubt know, G&G is very much still "a thing." Further, while a ton of fascinating stuff has been written about their antics (showcased in over a billion issues of "Highlights") they are still alive and illustrating extremes of youthful behavior--having outlived such contemporaries as lead paint, seatbeltless cars, and jarts. Go, G&G.
 This is an appropriate assignment for fourth grade, right?
 Which the "Goofus" example would not qualify for.
 Am I just jealous? I tried to remember what was decorating the doors of my elementary school in New Hartford, NY, circa 1982. I am pretty sure the only decor was the sad remains of the people in "Oregon Trail." Speaking of harmful tropes…
Does the TEACH Act allow a school to stream entire movies, if the movies could otherwise be shown in their entirety in class?
The TEACH Act was adopted in 2002 to enable the “digital transmission” of otherwise copyright-protected content for educational purposes.
Schools meeting the Act’s requirements can stream readings of poetry, images of paintings, and lines of computer coding, without fear of infringement claims. This allows regular teaching activities—like analyzing a poem, assessing a painting, or teaching HTML--to happen online, without fear that the duplication or transmission of the copyright-protected content will bring a lawsuit.
The TEACH Act positions online learning to use content as it would be used in a traditional classroom—as well as to novel and innovative things via distance learning technology.
But there are a few aspects of the “traditional classroom” the TEACH Act cannot replicate, and a critical one is: watching entire movies.
Per Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act, entire movies can be shown during an in-person class (if they are part of the curriculum…the law doesn’t allow a trigonometry class to kick back with “Wonder Woman” after finals are shown, unless they are calculating the angles of the bullets bouncing off her bracers).
But there is no equivalent exception in the TEACH Act for streaming an entire video as part of an online course.
In fact, in very plain language, the Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act states that only a “portion” of a film can be shown. As stated right here:
…the performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or reasonable and limited portions of any other work, or display of a work in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session, by or in the course of a transmission…. [emphasis added].
Okay, I admit it: it’s possible the “very plain language” is only plain to lawyers (and copyright scholars—many of whom are librarians--who leave some lawyers in the dust on these issues).
The “House Report”  below, explains how this language means performance of an entire movie is not allowed:
The exemption for instructional broadcasting provided by section 110(2) would apply only to “performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or display of a work.” Thus, the copyright owner’s permission would be required for the performance on educational television or radio of a dramatic work, of a dramatico-musical work such as an opera or musical comedy, or of a motion picture. [emphasis added]
So what does this mean? Schools that want to stream entire movies as part of an online course—even if those movies could be shown during an in-person class--should not rely on the TEACH Act as their protection from infringement.
What are the other solutions?
Thank you for this question!
 There are a lot of them, including the requirement that the material used is presented “…as an integral part of a class session offered as a regular part of the systematic mediated instructional activities….”
 The TEACH Act is also comprised of Copyright Act §112, but as the “House Report” for that section says “[Since the] performance exemption provided by section 110(2) applies only to nondramatic literary and musical works, there was no need to exclude motion pictures and other audiovisual works explicitly….” [emphasis added].
[The member provided a link to a story about an elementary school principal putting on her pajamas and using “Facebook Live” to read her scholars a weekly bedtime story.]
I always love ideas like this but am afraid to promote them because I have heard that this is a copyright violation. Is it? If it is, what are our options to do something like it in a legal and ethical way? Thank you!
Reading to kids is one of the best thing we can do for them. If the law gets in the way of that, there is something wrong with the law!
That said, honoring the rights of authors and illustrators who create stories to charm and educate is one of the best ways we can make sure there is always something new to read.
And it’s the law.
The member’s concern is justified; copyright law rewards creativity by empowering rights holders to control how and when their work is duplicated--in this case, “performed”. A reading on “Facebook Live”—no matter how many cute, be-jammied scholars it enriches—could infringe those rights.
But as the member also suggests, respecting copyright does not need to be the end of the line; there are many ways this type of real-time, remote reading can take place.
Below, please find my “Top 5 Ways for a Teacher to Remotely Read a Bedtime Story to Lots of Kids in Different Places Without Fear of Committing Copyright Infringement.”
1. When choosing a book to read, select a work in the “public domain”…meaning, the book is no longer protected by copyright. As of 2019, this means works published before 1924 (in the U.S.) and other select situations.
For example, the “Brothers Grimm” who were writing in the 1800’s, are not suing anymore (nor are their heirs). Just make sure the publisher hasn’t found a new way to assert the copyright of the copy you read from (a new version, new illustrations and layout, a slightly less sadistic version of the original, etc).
2. Write your own story.
This one is my favorite. Who knows? You might discover you’re the next Eric Carle!
3. Hold a writing contest amongst the students that includes parental permission to read the entries/winners online.
This could also bolster interest in the event, since kids could hear their own work read, and see their own pictures online.
4. Explore making the reading exempt under the TEACH Act (section 110 (2) of the Copyright Act).
The TEACH Act exempts certain digital transmissions of work from the classroom environment. It has several highly specific requirements, so educators should connect with their institution’s attorney and IT department to see if this option can work for them. While not the solution for every “good night” reading, with some planning, it could be a way to make online reading sessions a part of a routine curriculum.
5. Explore getting permission from the rights holder! While not all authors will be in a position to agree, many will say “Yes, of course!” when asked if a teacher can livestream a reading of their book (of course, if you also want to show their book as well as read it, you will need permission from the illustrator, too).
Reaching out to an author or publisher takes time, but many children’s authors are very accessible. My high school friend, Grace Lin, is a well-known children’s book author (and recent winner of a Caldecott Honor for “A Big Mooncake for Little Star”). I reached out to Grace on Facebook to get her take on this issue (and got her permission to share her thoughts).
For Grace, whose work contains lovely and carefully rendered illustrations, such a request would be about intent and quality. She said if the reading was more about the not-for-profit reader and audience connecting over her story, and not the video dwelling on the pages (effectively copying them), she would consider giving permission. On the flip side, Grace felt that serious duplication (with the video dwelling on the pages) could be an unwelcome duplication.
Like many children’s book authors, Grace is accessible via her website, www.gracelin.com, and I encourage would be night-time-story-readers to reach out to her!
Thank you for this great question. Copyright is an important law to honor in the educational environment. But finding ways—lots of ways—to give children an early and deep love of books is an even greater service to the world. It’s one of the reasons librarians are so important.
 There are six distinct rights given by a copyright: reproduction, , derivative works, distribution, performance, display, and (for sound recordings) digital transmission. You can see the full list here: https://codes.findlaw.com/us/title-17-copyrights/17-usc-sect-106.html
 Small note: the reason books can be read aloud in class (from k—grad school) without fear of infringement is because of an exception in Section 110 (1) of the Copyright Act. My solution in number “5,” above, is based on this exception.
 How can you tell if a work is in the public domain? One of the great treasures of the universe, a chart for determining public domain availability, is maintained by Cornell University at: https://copyright.cornell.edu/publicdomain.
A couple committees at the college my library is at want to present copyrighted films in the theatre as part of an educational film series. They are under the impression that as long as there is an "educational component" to the screening that it falls under fair use.
The showings would not be part of a course, although there are brief lectures by Faculty introducing films and related concepts. The screenings are open to the public. No admission is charged.
Does this fall under fair use?
The short answer is: no, this scenario is not a “fair use.”
But that’s not the end! “Fair use”—which is found in Section 107 of the Copyright Act—is not the only exception to copyright infringement.
There is another way. Section 110 of the Copyright Act provides:
[T]he following are not infringements of copyright:
(1)performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made[.] [emphasis added].
In the cold, scary, expensive world of copyright infringement, section 110 is breath of fresh air. Unlike section 107, which creates a four-factor “fair use” formula so esoteric, you can consult three lawyers and get six opinions, Section 110’s exceptions are well-defined and clear. 
So, can a gathering of instructors and students in a theater on a college campus meet these clear 110 requirements? Yes!
The problem is, as used in 110, the term “students” is not broad enough to apply to the member’s precise scenario. While the 110 term “instructors” includes guest lecturers (if their instructional activities remain confined to the class location and syllabus), the 110 term “pupils” is generally regarded as meaning only enrolled members of a class.  In addition, it is best if the syllabus for the course, whether for credit or a certificate, supports a conclusion that the viewing context really is a class—not recreation (even if it is enlightening recreation) masquerading as academia. 110 is a powerful exception to infringement, but it has its limits.
107 and 110 exceptions to infringement can sometimes get conflated. Here are some examples of how they do (or do not) apply, using one of my new favorite movies:
1. “Black Panther” uncut and shown on campus as part of an open-to-all, educational film series about would not be allowed under either fair use or 110. Any such showing must be licensed.
2. “Black Panther” partially evoked in very small, carefully-chosen selections for an open campus forum on “Women in Major Motion Picture Fight Scenes” could be allowed under “fair use,” but film stills and excerpts must be limited to only what is needed to make a point.
3. “Black Panther” shown in its entirety to students enrolled in a “Comics and Society” class would be allowed under 17 U.S.C. 110 (1)…so long as the movie genuinely contributes to the substance of the course, is shown only to enrolled students, and the copy they watch is not pirated.
What’s the take-away? Educators should apply “fair use” when needed, but remember that section 110(1) creates exceptions to infringement, too. It’s no vibranium, but is a powerful part of an educator’s arsenal.
 Care must be taken to ensure there is no re-transmission of the content. Another section of 110 does allow for limited re-transmission for online learning, but to qualify, the institution must adhere to all TEACH Act requirements.
 There are more than this, and of course, they all come with rules. Read the statute before relying on 110 to protect you from infringement.
 See House Report 94-1476
 Special rare metal in “Black Panther;” also, what Captain America’s shield is made from.
The question relates to showing a performance video to a sanctioned college club. I understand that as long as the college's library owns the DVD or streaming rights, the movie can be shown in its entirety for educational purposes in a classroom to registered members of the institution. Does the same hold true for showing the same movie to clubs on campus as long as the event is restricted to college members? This second question is related to the movie presentation but is concerned with publicity. Can the cover image be copied and inserted into the event posters and on the college's website? The web announcement would be removed immediately after the event.
As you say, a college can show a movie they own, without further licensing, so long as:
This is a broad exemption, but it absolutely does not apply to non-instructional, non-classroom showing of movies by student clubs. Such a showing would require express permission via license.
Of course, if a student club has an academic focus (for instance, Spanish Club) and the film is to be part of an academic experience (for instance, watching the movie in Spanish, to enhance learning), in an academic setting (class room, with a qualified academic instructor) one could argue that the required elements are still met. But the educational purpose must be bona fide…no watching “Deadpool” for entertainment and then having a half-hearted, academically disconnected discussion on modern comic book tropes. And of course under no circumstances should money be charged.
The second question is very simple: the cover images of most commercial films are subject to copyright. Because of that, and because there is no exemption allowing them to be duplicated, unless permission is obtained, the college is well-advised not to allow copies to be displayed to promote the event, and especially should not allow that image to be published on the college website.
Keeping it off the website is critical. Even smaller rights holders police the internet for images they own, and insurance companies, facing mandatory statutory damages and attorneys’ fees, will quickly settle claims…something that will eventually lead to higher insurance premiums for your institution.
The best way to promote the licensed showing is to either use the approved promotional material that comes with the license, or generate a version that does not infringe on the content of the original (or the film).