Why Does Copyright Law Matter?

copyrightrespectfully offered by Dan C., Orchestra Music Specialist

If you are reading this, you are probably a musician or associate with musicians. When you are a musician or hang with musicians, you begin to think that everyone is probably involved in music in one way or another. But, we musicians are really a fairly finite group of people.

It has been speculated that if you were to gather all people in the United States who make their living in the music industry (whether creating it, performing it, recording it, writing it, teaching it, publishing it, selling it, making and repairing instruments that play it etc), you would end up with about the same amount of people as are employed by the Kellogg’s Company – you know, the cereal and snack food folks. Yeah – a pretty finite group!

It seems unlikely that anyone involved in this tight-knit music community would intentionally keep their fellow musicians from trying to make a living. And yet, that’s what you do when you copy sheet music without permission. Sheet music is property – like a trumpet, violin or a microphone – but it’s intellectual property, which can be a bit nebulous. Basically, only the Copyright Holder has the “right” to “copy” their work. When you copy music without permission from the copyright holder, you are actually stealing it.

When you copy music without a second thought, that means the music is not being sold. Consequently, the music retailer and all their employees lose income, the music publisher and all their employees lose income, and, perhaps most tragically, the composer loses income. Your fellow musicians are being deprived of their ability to make a living.

So not only are you breaking the law by copying music, you are keeping your brothers and sisters in this finite musical community from doing what they love to do: be a musician. If they can’t make a living at it, they may have to leave and do something else. And the musical world becomes an even smaller place.

So don’t copy music without permission – it’s not only illegal, it’s immoral. Let’s make sure the livelihood of our music community is secure so we can all continue to make music – that thing we love to do!

For more information on what you can and cannot do when it comes to copyright, check out these books on the subject:
Copyright Basics by Joel Leach
The Teacher’s Guide to Music, Media, and Copyright Law by James Frankel
Music Copyright Law by Moser & Slay
Music Publishing: The Complete Guide by Steve Winogradsky

About the Author:
Dan C. has worked at Stanton’s since 1979, primarily with orchestra music and print promotions. A “working” musician, he’s a classical cellist, a rock & jazz bassist and a folk & country guitarist/singer. His free time is spent with family or reading, gardening, cycling and working puzzles. His series of musical puzzles (RP3 Rebus Puzzle Picture People) can be found on the Stanton’s Facebook page each Sunday. He also has a reputation as a pretty good joke teller. Seriously.

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