The U.S. copyright law protects composers, authors, performers, publishers and filmmakers from unauthorized copying or unlicensed use of their artistic creations.  NEC respects the legal rights of these individuals and companies and has established these copyright guidelines to help prevent both the unintentional and the intentional infringement of the U.S. copyright law.

There is often confusion at an educational institution as to how much copying can be done for teaching and research purposes under the "fair use" provision of the Copyright Act of 1978 (Title 17, Section 107).  These guidelines attempt to clarify, in particular, the various situations in which a limited amount of copying is permissible for educational purposes.

The library staff, in particular, is always available to address any concerns or questions about the implications of copyright laws. Questions that relate to the use of and copying of specific formats can be addressed to the Director of Information Technology Services, the Director of the Audio Department and the Performance Librarian.  In addition, members of the NEC community should familiarize themselves with NEC's "ITS Authorized User Policies".

Fair Use

In certain circumstances, "fair use" allows for the copying or distribution of a
copyrighted work without obtaining permission of the copyright holder.  According to copyright law, four factors must be considered in determining whether "fair use" applies:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work. (Is it mostly informational or is it a true creative work  An article from a newspaper or newsmagazine is more likely to be considered fair use than a musical score or work of fiction).
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. (Any portion larger than 10% of the whole will not be considered fair use).

The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. (If the use has a substantial negative impact on the market for the work the use will not be considered fair).

Copying You May Do Without Permission

  • Any material that has a copyright prior to 1923 is in public domain and may be copied without permission.
  • Emergency copying to take the place of purchased copies which for any reason are not available for an imminent performance, provided purchased replacement copies will be substituted in the near future and the copies are destroyed.
  • For academic purposes other than performance, multiple copies of excerpts of musical 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 section, movement or aria but, in no case, more than 10% of the whole work. **
  • For classroom use, multiple copies made be made of a chapter from a book, an article from a periodical or newspaper; these must be less than 10% of the whole work and contain notice of copyright. **
  • An individual may make one copy of one article from an issue of a journal for nonprofit educational purposes or a single copy from a portion of a book that does not exceed 10% of the work.
  • A single copy of a sound recording 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 teachers.

**Teachers should beware of repetitive copying.  Copying of the same material by the same teacher from term to term is not legal without permission.

Copying You May Not Do Without Permission

You may not copy material in order to avoid purchase.  Specifically, this means that, if it has a copyright date after 1922:

  • you are not permitted to photocopy a score or book
  • you are not permitted to download a CD or a DVD on to your laptop or copy it at a computer lab workstation.
  • you are not permitted to copy computer software.

You may not copy material under copyright to create anthologies or compilations unless you receive permission from the copyright holders (see Copyright Clearance Center).

You may not reproduce materials designed to be consumable such as workbooks, standardized tests and answer sheets.

Even if material is out of print, permission must be sought in writing before copying is permissible (see out-of-print).

Classroom Teaching

Section 110 (1) of the Copyright Act allows for the display or performance of
copyrighted works in the classroom setting.  Under the terms of "fair use", a limited amount of photocopying may also be permissible for classroom teaching.

In addition, the TEACH Act of 2002 provides for the use of digitized materials in the classroom.  It is not necessary to obtain permission to display scanned materials such as published music scores or works of art provided that no copies are made of these materials. Access to these digitized materials must be restricted to students enrolled in the course and only made available during the period the course is taught.

Out-of-Print Requests

One of the most common circumstances that discourages conscientious musicians from adhering to copyright law is their inability to purchase music easily from a music store or vendor. Increasingly during the past decade, publishers have been allowing significant portions of their stock to go out of print.  Unfortunately, out-of-print status does not absolve one from liability when photocopying music that is under copyright protection. Every effort must be made to contact the publisher for written permission to photocopy music that is out of print. Sample permission request forms and a complete list of publishers’ addresses are available on the website for the Music Publisher's

Copyright Clearance Center

The Copyright Clearance Center can be especially helpful to faculty members seeking permission to make multiple copies of articles or chapters from books.  To include such materials in 'course packets', permissions must be received and fees must be paid.

Public Showings of Films

Any showing of a film in a non-classroom setting at a school or college is considered to be a public performance and is subject, therefore, to licensing requirements. In order to show a film in any venue at NEC outside of the classroom, a public performance license must be obtained.  This legal requirement applies regardless of whether or not admission is charged or regardless of the status of an organization—commercial or non-profit (This includes student organizations).

Obtaining a public performance license is relatively easy and usually requires no more than a phone call.  Fees are determined by such factors as what film is being shown, how large the audience will be and the number of times that the film will be shown. In general, fees tend to be inexpensive for smaller performances. The major firms that handle public performance licenses are:  Swank Motion Pictures, Inc., Criterion Pictures, and Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC).

Penalties for Copyright Infringement

Anyone making illegal copies could face fines from $500 to $20,000 (statutory damages) and, if the court finds willfulness, up to $100,000.  If willful infringement for commercial advantage and private financial gain is proven, fines of up to $100,000 and/or two years' imprisonment, or both can be imposed.

Violations of the above guidelines are considered unethical by NEC and may also lead to disciplinary action and/or criminal prosecution.

Helpful Links to Information on Copyright

Copyright Clearance Center
Copyright Law of the United States (Copyright Act of 1976 and amendments), United States Copyright Office

Digital Millennium Copyright Act [PDF] (1998), United States Copyright Office

Library of Congress Copyright Information

Motion Picture Association of America

Music Library Association Copyright Guide

Music Publishers Association Copyright Resources

The TEACH Act [PDF], U.S. Senate Report 107-31, June 5, 2001.