RAQs: Recently Asked Questions

Topic: Popular music in Public K-12 Schools - 09/15/2021
I am struggling to find information on using popular music in public K-12 schools. I have the foll...
Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2021 Permalink

MEMBER QUESTION

I am struggling to find information on using popular music in public K-12 schools. I have the following areas I am trying to find information about:
1. Can a teacher use a Spotify account in their classroom?
2. Can a teacher use music with face-to-face instruction?
3. Can a service provider (counselor, therapist, social worker...) use music with students?
4. Can music be played during sporting events
5. Can music be used as part of the morning announcements

Thank you!

WNYLRC ATTORNEY'S RESPONSE

Welcome to "Back to School 2021"...a year unlike any other!

I have weathered many K-12 "back-to-schools."  For instance, second grade back-to-school, for me, was in 1980.  For my son, it was in 2010.  And for my daughter, it was just a few days before I sat down to write this.

That 1980-to-2021 time span has allowed me to realize two things:

Realization #1: Erasers smell the same in 2021 as they did in 1980; and

Realization #2: Back-to-school 2021 kicked off in a world that has gone through a lot of rapid and (at times) de-stabilizing change.[1]

The good news about realization #2 is that the law--which tends to change much more slowly than the world around it-- is much the same.  So, for this answer, where we can, we'll be linking back to prior "Ask the Lawyer" answers, and where there is something new, we'll add it.

QUESTION 1: Can a teacher use a Spotify account in their classroom?

ANSWER: Not unless the license has changed to allow more than "personal use."  For more on that, see "Using Streaming Services (Hulu, Netflix) in the Classroom - 4/17/2019" at https://www.wnylrc.org/ask-the-lawyer/raqs/79

QUESTION 2: Can a teacher use music with face-to-face instruction?

ANSWER:  Yes, so long as the music is part of the instruction, and the copy of the song was legally obtained.[2]

QUESTION 3: Can a service provider (counselor, therapist, social worker...) use music with students?

ANSWER:  There is no automatic permission or exception to the copyright law that allows a mental health service provider to use recordings, sheet music, or other copyright-protected property for purposes of licensed service.[3]

QUESTION 4: Can music be played during sporting events?

If the recorded or streamed music is protected by copyright, it should only be played with a license.

NOTE: Public schools will want to consult their lawyers about their risks in this regard now that the U.S. Supreme Court has (arguably) struck down the ability to sue "the state" and its subdivisions for copyright infringement.
 

5. Can music be used as part of the morning announcements?
If the music is protected by copyright, it should only be played with a license. 

NOTE: Public schools will want to consult their lawyers about their risks in this regard now that the U.S. Supreme Court has (arguably) struck down the ability to sue "the state" and its subdivisions for copyright infringement.

And with that, I wish you a joyous back-to-school.



[1] Perhaps this is why I found the familiar aroma of new "Pink Pearl" erasers comforting.

[2] This is allowed per Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act, which states that "performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction" is not infringement. 

[3] As I write that, it strikes me that such services are so important, ensuring the resource can be used legally is important.  There are a number of ways to do that, depending on the precise circumstances.

Tags: Academic Libraries, Fair Use, Music, School Libraries, Section 110, Streaming

The WNYLRC's "Ask the Lawyer" service is available to members of the Western New York Library Resources Council. It is not legal representation of individual members.