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Student Alternatives to Copyright Music and Materials

Digital Media in the Classroom


Student Alternatives to Copyright Music and MaterialsCopyright is an issue I discuss with my students on a daily basis. Recent news of SOPA, PIPA and ACTA have been debated topics in government and in the court of public opinion. And inevitably, copyright becomes a hot topic when I travel and present to educators who allow students to create videos for their classes.



I recently received an email from one of my colleagues who is facing many of the same copyright issues I have dealt with personally, and I’m sure are among the many questions you encounter as well.

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  • “I need some advice on videos appearing on SchoolTube, and how you have approached this with your students. I’ve stressed the copyright issues, but what have you done with lip dubs or videos that include copyright footage, including video highlights for professional sports? My students have submitted videos for (contests) and they have looked at other entries which contain music or videos/photos that are obviously taken from other entities. Are you aware of how we can do this or is it possible? Some of my students want to produce a lip dub for senior project. Any suggestions on approaching this?”

First, we simply don’t use copyright music on our videos. It took a few years, and to this day, I am still saying no. My biggest argument is that if a student or students spend hours upon hours to create a video they are proud of, and then they can’t share it with the world because they would be breaking the law, this usually dissuades them. In addition, I am constantly supplying them with alternatives.


Here are five alternative options for students:

Alternative #1 - GoMoxie. This is a free service with popular music that you can obtain the rights to music for educational purposes.

Alternative #2 - Search Facebook & Twitter for independent artists. We have found great music doing this & the students feel like they have discovered the next great group.

Alternative #3 - We have found two bands this year alone from the UK, whose country’s copyright laws are much different than the US. We have successfully used their music with their permission.

Alternative #4 - Royalty-free options. Sites like Jamendo and Incompetech offer excellent choices for student video productions. The Creative Commons arena is also a fabulous learning opportunity for your students.

Alternative #5 – Tell the students you will allow them to use the music, but only if they get written permission. Help them contact the record company and once they realize they will probably get stone-walled, or told they need to spend thousands of dollars to use ten seconds of their song, they may begin to understand the issue a bit more clearly.


Ultimately, if there is no expectation for students NOT to use copyright music, it’s tough, because the students see other schools doing it. Now, those “other” schools may or may not have received permission. You just don’t know. But if your kids say, “Why can that school do it but we can’t?” My answer is, “If your friends stole from a store and didn’t get caught, what would you do the next time YOU went into that store and didn’t have money?”

I teach a unit on Copyright every semester to my intro level students and that unit pretty much eliminates the requests from my students to use copyright music in their video productions. If I still haven’t convinced you yet, realize the worst thing that could happen is that a complaint would be filed and you would have to remove the video from the website.

Back to my original question: Do you really want to spend hours preparing a lip dub video, organizing the whole school, practicing, editing, and pulling off a very hard production, find out the entire school LOVES the video, will want to make it go viral…. only to then be told from a complaint by a record company, “Sorry. You must take down your video. You are committing copyright infringement”?

Let the students then decide, and if they STILL choose to not listen to you, just like a parent, allow them to make the mistake and chance suffering the consequences. However, if you are looking for legal advice, there is a great service for educators, the Student Press Law Center. Please reach out to them for help.

Do you have any other tips about copyright? If you have resources or stories to share, please comment. I’m always looking for more information.

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