Music is heard on campus in many different situations. Most music is legally protected by copyrights, so navigating copyright law as it impacts the varied uses of music can be a struggle for colleges and universities.
Music copyrights are not dealt with on a daily basis on most campuses. Various departments and administrators may share responsibilities for this area, and staff turnover may leave a new person in charge with little information about the steps the institution needs to take to comply with copyright requirements.
Use of Copyrighted Music on College and University Campuses, a joint report by the American Council on Education (ACE) and NACUBO, provides an overview of the legal issues relating to music copyright, the administrative structures in place, and suggests ways campuses might handle music copyright issues. The report is intended as an overview and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of informed legal counsel.
A companion piece, At a Glance: Music Copyrights on Campus, guides campuses through common scenarios, also detailed below.
What do you want to do?
- Play live music - as a soloist or as part of an ensemble - that fulfills an educational purpose
- Play music in a lecture, studio, lab, rehearsal, or concert
- Perform a play, musical, opera, or other staged work
- Play music that is not required for degrees or courses in music - live or recorded - in the student union, fitness facility, or during a sporting event, awards ceremony, skit, or student organization event or party
- Use music as part of a commercial or YouTube video
- Sell a CD of a student organization singing popular songs
- Play music over the college radio station
- Play music using a jukebox
Peer-to-Peer File Sharing
Peer-to-peer file sharing, where music, movies, and other copyright-protected works are shared over the Internet without regard to copyright, came to the forefront in the mid-2000s. For colleges and universities, file sharing activities of students were a concern because of the large amounts of network capacity used by file swappers, compromised network security caused by the peer-to-peer network protocol, and use of campus resources for illegal activities. Congress addressed the issue in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA), requiring colleges and universities that receive federal student aid funding to establish policies on peer-to-peer file sharing (or P2P, as it has become known). More recent development of legal means for sharing digital content have alleviated many of the earlier concerns, but the federal rules remain in force.