How To Make Your Online Course Development Sing With The Use of Music

How To Make Your Online Course Development Sing With The Use of Music

You would not think that music copyright would be an item of concern with online course development, however, with elearning courses becoming more and more interactive and filled with multimedia elements including music, it could be something that could come back to haunt you.

The Presumption

There’s a presumption that since you bought and paid for the music on iTunes or CD, you can combine it within your custom elearning course to present it for in-house purposes or for your company training program.

Well, no, strictly speaking you can’t. When you purchase music you are entitled to listen to it only. You may be prevented from copying it to a different format even when it will only be you who is listening to it. For instance, you cannot combine it with other music or other media without the express written permission of the composer or holder of its copyright.

Fair Use?

You may think that using the Beatles as background for your daughter’s wedding reception is completely fair. However if you did, it is unlikely that it would be reported to the holder of the copyright. So while you would be in the wrong, you would not likely be reported or found out. If you did the same thing in a movie you would sure hear about it in a hurry. The holder of the copyright would contact you and either you would be having to pay negotiated royalties or you would have to withdraw the film, insert new music and do a release again.

Happy Birthday To You

Even common songs could fall victim to copyright. No one knows the author of the words but the music to “Happy Birthday” was apparently written by two sisters in 1893. In a copyright dispute between two Broadway producers in the 1930’s one wound up with the rights via court decision.

Since then, someone has always owned the rights to Happy Birthday. Today they are held by Warner Chappell and Happy Birthday generates $2,000,000 per year in royalty payments. Sometimes it is an inadvertent use that is subsequently discovered by the licensor and the royalties are worked out. Don’t worry about your daughter’s birthday and the recording you made of the Happy Birthday song. The licensor will not likely call.

The Solution

If you’d like to use music or sounds in your elearning courses, what do you do? Luckily, there are sounds and music available that are free or very low in cost that will add to your work and keep you out of copyright issues.

  • Creative Commons

    The Creative Commons website has links to various websites that provide access to music that can be used within your elearning courses. You’ll need to attribute the author of the music within your course but depending on the license you may be limited to using it for non-commercial purposes.

  • Public Domain

    What about all those Walt Disney cartoons which use the classics? Did they pay royalties? No, they did not and the good news is you won’t have to either. Many famous classical musical scores long ago passed over their time limits for copyright protection. Walt Disney used a number of these songs in their entertaining cartoons, such as Bugs Bunny in the Rabbit of Seville where they use Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture. Enjoy those old classics and blend them with your elearning content.

  • Royalty-Free Music

    There are a number of websites that provide royalty-free music that you’ll be able to use in your elearning. Unlike Creative Commons or Public Domain music, you will need to pay for it. However, purchasing it does come with the protection of being able to use it without paying per-use royalties to the original composer.

Using music in elearning courses used to problematic. But there are solutions out there that can cost little to no money. By implementing these solutions in your courses, you can create elearning that virtually sings.

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