Using music at Storytime in a public library

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  • Hi! I'm a Children's Librarian at a public library and I am wondering if using music purchased on my personal iTunes account at my story times and at library events is breaking copyright laws. I thought it would fall under "fair use" but questions about this use of music music have arisen. I would really appreciate your thoughts on this question. Thanks. 

  • Hi Stephanie:

    When you acquire music from iTunes, you agree to an End User License Agreement (EULA) that restricts your use to non-profit, personal use.  So if you use your iTunes music, you cannot publicly perform the work because the license does not allow it.  You would not be infringing copyright, but you would be violating state contract law.  

    Having said that, many people use iTunes music for educational uses, including public performances.  Sometimes, they are not aware that the license forbids it. Sometimes, they just use the music anyway, especially when the songs are only available on iTunes. 

    A fair use argument does not necessarily work because it is unclear whether state law recognizes something like fair use.  And most courts have ruled that these non-negotiated licenses are legally binding. 

    So what do you do?  What we know is that rights holders have ignored these contract violations.  Despite many librarians trying to get institutional licenses for iTunes songs, the recording industry is not interested.  It's not that big of a deal for them.  They would rather focus on massive piracy. 

    If it were me, I would just go ahead and use the iTunes music that you have lawfully acquired.  Risk is very low, and often you have no other alternative but to get the music through iTunes.  And based on history, the rights holders don't care enough to sue. 

    On the other hand, if you go ahead and use the music, you would technically be violating a license agreement. 

    The decision is yours to make!  

    Good luck!





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