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Read my lips: Students should exercise caution when producing lip sync videos

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By Megan Fromm
Sometimes, pop culture and reality align to provide the perfect anecdote for our weekly SPRC posts. This week, the timing of Jimmy Fallon and Emma Stone’s heated lip sync battle on the Tonight Show couldn’t have come at a better time. Earlier this week, the celebrities dueled over who could best move their mouth to a famous pop or rap segment, emulating thousands of videos already online in which people — often teens — attempt to look just like the musicians who originally released a song.

And while fans may have crowned Emma the lip sync queen, anyone concerned with copyright infringement should take this example to heart: When a person publishes a video — even if it’s only seconds long — of his/herself miming along to copyright music, that person could be violating copyright.

Need a refresher of copyright law? Visit the Student Press Law Center at www.splc.org or check out their Student Media Guide to Copyright.

Take, for instance, the case against Vimeo, a popular video sharing website. In an ongoing lawsuit that started in 2009, Capitol Records is suing the website, accusing Vimeo of posting videos that violated hundreds of the record company’s copyrights.

What makes music copyright especially complicated is that compositions may exist under several copyrights — one for the lyrics and musical arrangement, one for any particular production of the composition, and often one for the arts or imagery that accompany a musical record. Strictly speaking, without permission from the copyright holder, others cannot legally reproduce or redistribute the work in question.

Students initiating school-wide lip dubs is becoming increasingly common (for example, students in both Pennsylvania and Indiana produced their own), but simply calling it an “educational activity” because it happens on school grounds or during the school day is not protection against potential copyright infringement. 

So, students and teachers beware. And more importantly, be safe, legal, and respectful by obtaining written permission before producing and publishing lip syncs as part of your student media program.

 

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