RAQs: Recently Asked Questions

Topic: Music used for virtual school Halloween parade - 10/23/2020
The elementary is planning a virtual Halloween parade this year. The students will parade through ...
Posted: Friday, October 23, 2020 Permalink

MEMBER QUESTION

The elementary is planning a virtual Halloween parade this year. The students will parade through the building in costume. As they pass through the entrance hallway, there will be a video camera live-streaming the parade via zoom (to families watching from home). The parade committee would like to play a purchased CD of spooky music in the background of the video.

Does this violate the music copyright?

WNYLRC ATTORNEY'S RESPONSE

In the spirit of the season, and the answer I must give, this answer will be a modified version of a scene from Macbeth.

[Cue sounds of wind, rain, and small children trying to line up while thinking about candy and their itchy "Frozen II Elsa" costume.]

ENTER THREE WITCHES

FIRST WITCH: Educator!  I sense thou wouldst put on a show!  And Zoom it to demesnes beyond thy institution!  But if the music is protected by copyright and the school does not have a license to use the music in that manner it will be a violation of the copyright!!!

SECOND WITCH:  And, Educator, know this, as well! The Zoom terms of use state: "Zoom may deny access to the Services to any User who is alleged to infringe another party's copyright!" So be warned, or you be twice-condemned for the foul deed of infringement, by both the copyright's master, and the Powers of Zoom!!!

[Lightning.  Thunder.]

THIRD WITCH:  Ahem.  Of course, you'd have to get caught, first....

[Pause.  The cauldron bubbles.  FIRST WITCH and SECOND WITCH give THIRD WITCH the side-eye.]

THIRD WITCHAhem.  Of course, you'd have to get caught, first....

FIRST WITCH and SECOND WITCH:  Gasp!

THIRD WITCH: What? We're witches!  We have to be sneaky, why do you think we're camped out here in the woods?  And seriously, do you think in the midst of everything happening on Zoom, someone's going to notice?  The world is going so crazy, I'm expecting it to rain toads at any moment!  Give this poor Educator a break.

FIRST WITCH:  Oh, Alecto, you always were a rebel.

Okay, back in the real world...

Sadly, my three witches are right, and this is the answer I have to give.  Since the parade won't be a part of a class, there is no TEACH Act exception, so transmitting the music via Zoom is just like putting it out over a streaming service or live TV: a no-go without permission[1].

That said, I dug around in my cauldron, and I can offer this possible solution:

Round about the copyright go

In the creative solution throw

Songs that "copyleft" be

Can help thee celebrate Halloween

For works freely used and easy got

Search "Copyleft Halloween Songs," and find a lot.

Not very much toil and trouble

"Copyleft" works make music bubble!

 

Just in case my Shakespearean verse is too obtuse, what I'm saying is: Hop on your favorite search engine and type "copyleft Halloween songs."[2]

What will this do?

For those of you who don't know: "Copyleft"[3] is slang for: "I could own and control this copyright, but I am so cool, I am letting you use it, so long as you let others use it, too."  Meaning: "copyleft" work is free to use, by anyone, so long as whatever you generate using the work is also free to use.[4]

Now, as with all clever solutions, this one calls for thorough planning.  I listened to a few of the songs I found this way; not all of them are, as they say, "safe for work" (or at least safe for school) so check out the songs before you Zoom them out to parents. But since this is music the authors have proudly composed and released for free use by a wide audience, I suspect at least some of it will meet your needs.[5]

[NOTE: I don't know if it would work for your school, but this one by Frannie Comstock is hilariously clever[6] (and mentions lawyers)!  If nothing else, give it a listen just for a fun 5 minutes.  Here is that YouTube link written out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzvlAuUiM5s]

Happy Halloween!

 



[1] I am not weighing if this would be a "fair use."  That said, if the Halloween Parade and the music interacted to make a clever statement or unique medley of work, that could be a possibility.  But I've been to my kids' Halloween parades.  They are darling, they are not ground-breaking, incisive commentary on modern theatre.

[2] Don't search "Copyleft Halloween Music" because for some reason (which I am sure many of you information professionals out there know) it just wasn't as fruitful.

[3] Yes, this is similar to Creative Commons, but it is also different.  For more information, visit https://www.copyleft.org/.

[4] This means that if you make a movie out of the Zoom recording of the parade, using a Copyleft song, that recording needs to be Copyleft, too.

[5] Unless "your needs" involved specifically using the soundtrack to "The Nightmare Before Christmas."  In which case, I cannot help you, because Skellington Productions, Inc. owns all those copyrights, and I don't see them going Copyleft anytime soon.

[6] I don't know Fannie Comstock (is that even a real name?  It sounds like a person who makes candy while panning for gold), and I am not receiving any kickback for this endorsement of her ridiculously clever work.  Which makes sense, since there is no charge to use her highly amusing song.

Tags: copyleft, Copyright, COVID-19, Library Programming and Events, Music, Streaming, Zoom

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