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Copyright and VCE Media, Art, Studio Arts, Visual Communication and Design

This article touches on the issues around copyright and student work. Copyright in video, interactive and multimedia production is pertinent when students use commercial images and commercial music as part of their production.

If students want their work to be seen outside the classroom, in the public domain e.g. in festivals like the VCE Season of Excellence or Diegesis and at awards like the ATOM Awards, it is up to the student to secure the rights to use commercial music or images from the owners.

With students who intend to use commercial music it is worthwhile taking the time in or out of class to go through some awareness building on copyright.

The best place to start is with an article on Music Sampling by Michael Easton. Michael is a solicitor with the company Brett Oaten Solicitors. The article was first published in Art + Law newsletter issue 00.3, September 2000 and is now available at

If you substitute the title "Using Commercial Music in my video/digital Production" for the original title "Music Sampling" then this article goes through all the 'ifs, buts and maybes' about copyright music and how to deal with it when students take their work into the public domain. Easton says in the article "If you want to use ........ a song you may need to get that .... cleared. This means contacting the relevant copyright owner and requesting a licence (permission) from them to allow you to use the sample."

This can be time consuming and it is much easier to deal with copyright issues if there is a whole class approach that you can then build on in years to come to make things easier for yourself as a teacher.

It might be worth your while having a student or a group of students go through Michael Easton's article and then do a review of the article for the whole class. This would mean that student's who do want to take their work into the public domain will probably listen and know what steps are involved.


So how do you go about getting clearance for the music you want to use? (It will usually be easier to obtain clearance with Australian music than overseas music).

There a several steps you will need to follow:

This may sound difficult but fortunately there is a way to manage the process.

Teaching suggestions.

As a class exercise have students draft letters to real or imaginary rights owners, save the best copies as examples. Brainstorm issues such as, who is asking for permission, details of the student work the music is intended to be used in, what festival and awards the student work will be entered in etc. Network your ideas and results with other teachers. Keep an electronic copy of any correspondence you or your students write to the various owners, the successful letter of request will be handy place to start with future requests.

Final check and keep copies.

When you receive written permission make sure you have permission from ALL the owners, here you will need to double check against the APRA. Keep the originals and any copies in a safe place.


This may all sound very time consuming but it is important to remind students that it is not only polite to request permission from music rights holders it is a legal requirement for work used outside the classroom and it will become more important over the next few years. So now is the time to establish the good habits.




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