Erin is a 15 year veteran dance team coach in Minnesota. A 3 time MADT coach of the year (2009, 2010, 2014) and winner of 2 state championships in high kick with the Cannon Falls Bomber Dance Team. In high school Erin danced for Winona and Apple Valley high schools. Erin is a nationally known blogger, writing for the Radio City Rockettes and a Hollywood movie among other projects. Erin also teaches on a freelance contractor basis for many MN high school teams and can be contacted for date/time availability at firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s been a big issue brewing for a while now in the performing arts industry that we’ve gotta start talking about here in dance team world. This isn’t specifically a Minnesota or MSHSL dance team issue just yet – so I’m not talking about this to create panic. No one is gonna sue you, and I’m not a lawyer so this is not legal advice. I am mentioning this so we’re informed and ahead of the curve. (lots of pink links to click on for further reading)
The issue of copyright management is creeping into the dance team world slowly and has made waves with a few major announcements, primarily this one from Varsity Brands UDA Summer Camps. Basically, you’re not allowed to use unlicensed music mixes you’ve procured on your own for camp performances. While this sounds like a greedy cash grab to make sure you use Varsity’s owned mixes – it’s a lot more than that. This is about being able to play unlicensed music online in on-demand style videos which generate profit, such as a YouTube or webpage hosted instant viewing. That’s where they want their cash.
This has been coming for a while
First off take a look at the signs. Last year’s UDA nationals included the following notice, where there would be no sound on Varsity hosted videos. No sound? Yup – it’s because of the DMCA enforcement that is walking all over fair rights usage and going hard at those who aim to make a dime on a video or performance. Another performing arts association I follow – Drum Corps International – also pulled their entire archive library of performances (which was a paid subscription service mind you) because they couldn’t be 100% sure every past license the corps procured in the past covered this new technology of streaming video. No explicit agreement and payment- means no posting videos for DCI. See the video here of DCI director Dan Potter talking about how serious this issue is to their non-profit and educational activity. (2 minutes is all you need)
So we generally know that dance team’s don’t need a license to use music because of Fair Use provisions in the copyright act. Yes, we do have that protection for educational uses. But is selling your advertising on a YouTube video now educational? If you’re selling a video or stream at the state tournament – is that profiting party not depriving artists of their share? We don’t “cite” our artists for credit or ask permission, so someone cannot start turning that into profits at will. Simply being a “school” or being “non-profit” does not make your use of someone’s property (music) Fair Use automatically. Ok, so what if we are making money somewhere on this? Isn’t that was a ASCAP license is for? Yes – but that only gives a dance studio or team permission to do a LIVE performance and you pay by the “days” performed. It doesn’t give you forever and all time video use in a public domain like the internet. That’s where the Digital Millennium Copyright Act comes in to “block” your videos. Organizations like Varsity, Just For Kix, Drum Corps, etc. all rely on funds generated from on-demand videos and website traffic to support their business. Educational, non-profit, or no – if money moved hands somewhere, those groups can be sued. Fees can be upwards of $150,000 per song. Even if a team has a right to perform without penalty – Varsity and others want that video right to hold up. Hence, we’re getting licenses and using public domain songs this summer for UDA. Pretty sure I don’t want to watch 15 dances to Happy Birthday just because its public domain. (finally that one’s free!)
Organizations like YouTube and our educational non-profits are going to bat to protect someone’s right to have a dancing baby grooving to Prince online – but it’s getting TIGHTER for now, not easier. Until we can ensure we’ve got legal precedence for online reproductions of our dance routines – we may see more of these “no sound” or “licensed sounds” only requests. Individual teams and studios can just keep doing what they’re doing – and even “live” broadcasts, performances, and streams have some protections hammered out. But I’d think twice about posting your routine for profits anywhere until the legal winds blow the other way. For now, everyone from gymnastics meets, bodybuilding contests, restaurants, and even funeral homes are supposed to be filling in an ascap license for anything not Fair Use/educational. Everyone gets their cut. This pie just sliced in a few more directions this year and our creative team freedom might be squashed in the meantime if we want to be present online.
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