Fair Use at Student Talent Show at Elementary School

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  • Every year, there is a talent show at our elementary school. The students sing, dance, and pantomime various musical works. My principal asked me if this was a violation of fair use. I told her yes. #1 The use of the copyrighted music is not for educational purposes. #2 There are teachers around, but they are not instructing any educational lessons. #3 They are using more than 30 seconds of the music - actually at least 3 minutes each. #4 There is no charge to attend the talent show, but there are over 50 students in attendance. Am I right? Am I being too literal in my interpretation? How should I advise her to proceed? How can kids have fun singing, dancing and pantomiming at a talent show - only with their original works?
  • Not legal advice, but yeah, I'd think you were being too strict in your interpretation. #1 isn't just about commercial vs. educational uses- it's about the purpose of the use. Is a talent show solely about entertainment? Or is there a benefit to the students for participating in the talent show? You're pretty far from a commercial use, and I'd still say it's in your favor. #4 is about the effect on the market. I can't really see how elementary school students in a talent show would have a negative effect on the market, personally. I think you have a good fair use case.

    Beyond fair use, there's another copyright exemption that schools and others can use for performances, I believe section 110 (4). That generally covers school concerts (possibly even there is money involved, as long as proceeds go for educational purposes).

    The thing to be really careful about is charging money and recordings- either of those would change your options or analysis.

    What do other people think?
  • I agree with COvalle that your interpretation is a bit too strict. We also have a talent show at my school and as long as no one is taping the entire show for resale or broadcast purposes, I don't think there is a problem. Also, COvalle brings up a good point about benefits to students. Not only do the performers get benefits of confidence and self esteem boosters but the audience can also learn about appropriate audience behaviour.

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