Photo of Alan Green

Alan Green,
Head Librarian for Music and Dance and
Adjunct Professor at the School of Music

Copyright touches many library services because we collect, share and loan original works fixed in a wide variety of tangible media. The Copyright Resources Center conducted a series of informational interviews with faculty and staff from various areas of The Ohio State University Libraries to discuss the ways in which they engage with copyright issues. This blog series documents those conversations, and highlights how copyright law helps to shape services provided by the Libraries. See all available posts in the series here.

The Music and Dance Library at The Ohio State University houses a diverse collection of materials in a wide variety of media: compact disc and tape recordings, books, sheet music, DVDs, VHS, serials, vinyl records, and more. I met with Alan Green, Head Librarian for Music and Dance and Adjunct Professor at the School of Music, and Sean Ferguson, an Assistant Librarian at the Music and Dance Library, to discuss the ways that copyright affects their services, collections, and patrons.

For more information about music copyright, please refer to our four-part blog series:

Part 1What is Music Copyright?

Part 2. Copyright Duration For Musical Compositions And Sound Recordings

Part 3. Termination of Transfer for Music Copyright

Part 4. Licensing Opportunities for Music Copyright

Music and dance materials may present more complex copyright questions due to multiple layers of copyright and specialized legislation. In the case of music, two copyrights may be in effect: copyright in the musical composition and a second copyright in any sound recording made of the composition. To complicate matters further, copyright in sound recordings was not protected under federal law until 1972; copyright in pre-1972 sound recordings is governed by state law. Dance materials may also be comprised of multiple, separately copyrighted works, such as choreography, the recorded performance of a dance, and the copyrights associated with any music that might accompany a dance.

In another blog post on the Libraries’ former eReserves service, we explored one way in which the Libraries helped instructors comply with copyright and provide course materials to students online. The Music and Dance Library offers the Variations streaming service for customized, locally selected audio reserve materials to help instructors comply with the requirements of the TEACH Act, or to strengthen a fair use argument depending on the situation. The library also provides access to third-party streaming audio and video databases for music and dance which support copyright-compliant teaching needs.

Alan and Sean are especially interested in digitizing materials in the Music and Dance Library’s collections for preservation and access purposes. Among other projects, they are currently working to digitize historical recordings from the School of Music that are stored on degrading reel to reel tapes. Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law permits libraries to produce a limited number of copies under specific conditions for the purpose of library preservation (17 U.S.C. §108). Digitized collections may be accessed on site at the Music and Dance Library, and a limited number of collections may be accessed and streamed by authenticated OSU users upon request through the Library’s closed system.

Photo of Sean Ferguson

Sean Ferguson, Assistant Librarian

Alan and Sean also work to make digitized materials publicly available when legally (and technically) possible. For example, the Music and Dance Library has an ongoing project to reformat public domain sheet music and make it available as a digital collection through the Knowledge Bank (see also: the blog post in this series on the Knowledge Bank). Materials published before 1923 and a selection of other works published between 1923 through the 1970’s and 1980’s have entered the public domain in the United States due to the expiration of their copyright term or failure to comply with formalities necessary to obtain or extend copyright protection. The Libraries can make public domain sheet music available online and anyone can access and use the music for teaching, research, performances, creating derivative works, or any other purpose without restrictions due to copyright.

This blog has presented a snapshot of the impact copyright has on just one area of the Libraries. Copyright affects libraries and higher education in a multitude of ways, often with idiosyncrasies particular to various subjects and disciplines. Additional posts in this series explore other instances in which copyright affects library services and collections; you can see all available posts in the series here.



By Jessica Chan, Rights Management Specialist at the Copyright Resources Center, The Ohio State University Libraries