Category Archives: Legal

Sight-impaired ringers

Handbell musicians often assume it’s OK to enlarge handbell music for sight-impaired ringers. However, copyright law restricts the right to copy as follows:

1) What: literary (not musical) works
2) Who can copy: institutions that exist to serve the blind, like the Braille Institute
3) For: the legally blind Continue reading Sight-impaired ringers

Copyright quiz

At National Seminar in Portland (July 2013), I taught a class called ‘Copyright Basics for Handbell Musicians.’ While the class was gathering, I handed out this quiz to pique interest and give everyone something to do while waiting. I thought you might enjoy trying it.

A reminder that I’m available to teach the copyright class for other groups, like Area conferences, and can adapt it for other kinds of musicians. Continue reading Copyright quiz

Transcribing vs. arranging

Someone asked recently about the difference between transcribing and arranging, and whether a copyright holder’s permission is needed to perform, say, a piano piece on handbells. These are excellent questions, and I’d like to share some thoughts from my research on copyright, as well as my experience requesting transcription rights from publishers. As stated before, I’m not an attorney, and you need to seek qualified legal advice if you intend to rely on it. However, the need for permission is clearly spelled out in the copyright law. Continue reading Transcribing vs. arranging


For our recent solo concert, I created my first ever slideshow to accompany a piece, and someone requested I write about it. If projection equipment is available, a slideshow is an excellent way to add variety to a program, almost like adding another instrument. I first started thinking about my slideshow a year ago. I had hoped to present it last spring, but that didn’t work out. The delay allowed me to prepare properly, and even to take some digital photos with the slideshow in mind. Continue reading Slideshows

Recording permission and mechanical licenses

Making recordings in any form is one of the rights assigned exclusively to the copyright holder under copyright law. This is partly what the notice “All rights reserved” means. Although technology has changed rapidly, copyright law has not. We’re still bound by the laws on the books, however laxly enforced. If you haven’t already read my articles on Performance royalties and copyright, as well as Photocopies and “fair use,” you may find them helpful in understanding these issues. Today’s article covers audio recording licenses; I’ll write another time about video recording, as well as broadcasting via YouTube or other media. Continue reading Recording permission and mechanical licenses

Photocopies and “fair use”

Making copies in any form is one of the rights assigned exclusively to the copyright holder under copyright law. In addition to the usual copyright notice of “All rights reserved,” publishers sometimes use stronger wording to reinforce that photocopying sheet music is illegal. As handbell musicians, we want to do the right thing, but that can be difficult with so much misinformation floating about.

Read here about:

• The myth of the ‘working copy’
• Ways to accommodate copying restrictions
• What “fair use” really means Continue reading Photocopies and “fair use”

Performance royalties (ASCAP) and copyright

Most copyrighted music has a notation “All rights reserved,” or something similar. Copyright law assigns numerous rights exclusively to the copyright holder, including the right to perform the work publicly. Of course, composers want you to perform their published works, since you have little reason to buy sheet music otherwise. However, royalties are owed to the copyright holder whenever copyrighted music is performed in public. Just buying sheet music isn’t sufficient.

Read here about:

• How to determine whether royalties are owed
• Who must pay performing royalties
• How, when, and where to pay the royalties Continue reading Performance royalties (ASCAP) and copyright