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Old February 15th, 2005, 11:02 AM   #1
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Rights to University Student Performances

On occasion I do video taping of music student performances at a local university. Most of the music is long ago in the public domain, so those rights are not at issue.

I am wondering, however, about the rights of student performers in the university setting. I presume the student performers own the rights to their own performances. However, I note that the university music department makes a regular practice of recording and selling CDs of student performances, both individual and ensemble. Can the university really do this, other issues aside, without the student's express consent? Would a student have a right to sue? Are students entitled to residual payments?

Must the university get a release for every student performance, or does the fact that the student is playing in a required performance or ensemble color the issue? Should the department be securing a blanket release from all student performers for the length of their studies?

I think there tends to be an assumption that because "they are just students" their rights are diminished or that the university owns them in some respect.

This seems to be a real can of worms. Who really owns the rights to student productions that are recorded or shot on university equipment by student groups or students in a class?

Anyone run into any of these issues?
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Old February 15th, 2005, 11:56 AM   #2
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Ask the University. They may have a "blanket release" built into their student and employee contracts.
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Old February 15th, 2005, 12:30 PM   #3
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The closest one comes to faculty contracts in academe are letters of appointment that generally incorporate the school's faculty handbook. Universities, following the norms of academic freedom, generally do not own rights to faculty members' creative works although there are variations esp. were lots of money is involved (generally in the sciences).

Students have no contract at all, but must abide by the student handbook.
The student handbook says (I happened to have taught at this insititution) that copyright must be respected by students and is respected by the university. There is no reference to the performance rights of students.
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Old February 15th, 2005, 01:31 PM   #4
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Assuming your assertion is correct, that the music is in the public domain, and that the arangements were created by the university, there is an argument to be made that the concert is a production "OF" the university, which would make them the author of the work for copyright purposes.

This is simply an arguement to be made, not a legal opinion.
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Old February 15th, 2005, 03:08 PM   #5
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Richard touches on an important point here. Just because the composer is long dead it doesn't mean that the music is in the public domain. More likely than not they are performing a copyrighted arrangement of the music....
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Old February 15th, 2005, 06:27 PM   #6
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I am well aware of the issues related to arrangements and editions.

Here is how it generally works with "classical" music. If you can purchase the orchestral or chamber music parts to a piece the right to public performance goes with the parts and is "included" in the purchase price, often becuase the piece is in the public domain. Why else would one sell or buy the parts?

There are a great many pieces that are available on a rental basis only and the only way to perform them is to rent the parts from the the publisher. In this case the right to public performance is included in the rental price. Some major pieces in the standard orchestral literature still are "rental only", the Rite of Spring, for example. As a practical matter, publishers don't sell parts for pieces if they can make money renting the parts.

Bottom line: if a "classical" ensemble has published parts (not photocopies, of course) in front of them and if the sponsoring organization paid for or rented the parts the group probably has public performance rights. Publisher practices with popular music are different.

The right to record and distribute recordings of music is, in any case, different and is a separate issue altogther for works not in the public domain (see http://www.pdinfo.com) and requires different permssions (see, for example http://www.schirmer.com/licensing.html).

I was not asking about either of these issues. What I am wondering about is the student performer's right to his or her performance vis-a-vis the university, that's why I wrote, "other issues aside".
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Old February 15th, 2005, 07:06 PM   #7
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Back to my previous statement. AN arguement can be made that since the university incurred all expenses in rehearsal, production and recording of the performance, the recording of the performance is owned by the university, since they are considered the creator, or "author" of the piece.

Again, this is one arguement that might be made in favor of the university having the right to tape and sell the performance. How well it would stand up to legal scrutiny, I would wait for Paul Tauger to comment.
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Old February 16th, 2005, 08:14 AM   #8
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<<<-- Originally posted by Peter Wiley : The closest one comes to faculty contracts in academe are letters of appointment that generally incorporate the school's faculty handbook. Universities, following the norms of academic freedom, generally do not own rights to faculty members' creative works although there are variations esp. were lots of money is involved (generally in the sciences).

Students have no contract at all, but must abide by the student handbook.
The student handbook says (I happened to have taught at this insititution) that copyright must be respected by students and is respected by the university. There is no reference to the performance rights of students. -->>>
Students do have a contract, the enrollment agreement. Our enrollment agreement includes a release for use of images from classes and 'scholl sposored and supported ' activities. This allows use of images and video for commercials, VPRs, news stories etc without obtaining individual releases per use. The enrollment agreement however is a binding contract between teh institution and student and in my experience is overseen by the licensing body and the accrediting commission.
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Old February 16th, 2005, 03:38 PM   #9
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Certian kinds of schools are required by law in many states to offer enrollment agreements. They are generally private career or trade schools that offer diplomas. The agreements came to be required because some of the these schools where ripping-off students and the government (in financial aid scams). In Pennsylvania all "Private Licsenced Schools" have to use an enrollment agreement -- the minimal form is set out by law, but schools can add things to the agreement as long as the terms don't contradict what's required by law.

In Pennsylvania there is no legal requirement that private four year liberal arts colleges or universities use enrollment agreements. Some schools may, of course, choose to require them. I don't know of any BA/BS granting institutions that do. Most 4 year degree-granting schools prefer a less formal student handbook approach, I think, because contracts with students would open many, many cans of worms. It would be a pretty audacious institution that would say to students "you pay us $25,000/year to attend classes here, and by the way we own the rights to your image."

A problem with seeing the school as the "author" of a performance is that in many cases the school is not bearing all the costs: students purchase or rent the music on their own and are often required to do so. If the public performance rights come from the publisher, then it's really the students that have them in such cases. Sometimes students pay specific fees to cover the cost of music for the groups they are members of. Students often play on instruments they own and often provide concert dress.

I don't mean to be argumentative. I am just thinking the issues through.
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Old February 16th, 2005, 03:52 PM   #10
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<<<-- Originally posted by Peter Wiley : Certian kinds of schools are required by law in many states to offer enrollment agreements. They are generally private career or trade schools that offer diplomas. The agreements came to be required because some of the these schools where ripping-off students and the government (in financial aid scams). In Pennsylvania all "Private Licsenced Schools" have to use an enrollment agreement -- the minimal form is set out by law, but schools can add things to the agreement as long as the terms don't contradict what's required by law.

In Pennsylvania there is no legal requirement that private four year liberal arts colleges or universities use enrollment agreements. Some schools may, of course, choose to require them. I don't know of any BA/BS granting institutions that do. Most 4 year degree-granting schools prefer a less formal student handbook approach, I think, because contracts with students would open many, many cans of worms. It would be a pretty audacious institution that would say to students "you pay us $25,000/year to attend classes here, and by the way we own the rights to your image."

A problem with seeing the school as the "author" of a performance is that in many cases the school is not bearing all the costs: students purchase or rent the music on their own and are often required to do so. If the public performance rights come from the publisher, then it's really the students that have them in such cases. Sometimes students pay specific fees to cover the cost of music for the groups they are members of. Students often play on instruments they own and often provide concert dress.

I don't mean to be argumentative. I am just thinking the issues through. -->>>

The public performance is a definite issue, particularlyif performance rights are part of the purchase/cost of the music. A similar issue as encountered by marching bands/ drum and bugle corps etc. Thinking these types of issues through can be enought to give you a headache LOL...
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Old February 16th, 2005, 06:05 PM   #11
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A headache to be sure, but people are getting so crazy about copyright and related issues that one has to think about them. It is just a matter of time before some student brings this issue up.

The University of Tennessee marching band was sued for playing music on national TV during half time shows without paying the proper royalties, I believe.
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