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The NFHS Voice

NFHS, Music Publishers Pave Way for Students to Use Copyrighted Material to Complete Year

Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff, NFHS Executive Director

Not unlike the process for relaxing the stay-at-home orders and re-opening the economy at the national level, the timing of the return of high school sports and activities may differ from state to state.
Currently, 21 NFHS member state associations have cancelled all spring sports events, while the other 30 remain in a “suspended/postponed” category. In most cases, these differences rest with whether schools have been closed for the semester or remain hopeful of re-opening in the coming weeks.
While some states are optimistic that seniors will be able to squeeze in some final athletic competition, those decisions will all be guided by one overriding factor – the health and safety of the student participants.
Although the timing for the almost eight million high school student-athletes to return to sports competition remains in question, we are excited to announce that at least some high school students involved in other school activities will have a way to continue participation in an online setting.
In addition to its role as the national leader and advocate for high school sports in the United States, the NFHS serves in a like manner for activities such as music, speech, debate, theatre and academic programs. Similar to high school athletes involved in baseball, softball, lacrosse, and track and field, students in high school music programs faced an end to competition with the shutdown of schools.
However, in a landmark decision, several prominent music publishers are allowing temporary use of their copyrighted music for educational purposes. This will allow high school musicians to complete their year-end assessments, as well as classroom instruction while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students involved in these important activity programs can continue participation online and maintain compliance with copyright laws.
The NFHS appreciates the action on the part of these music publishers – Alfred, Barnhouse, Hal Leonard, Warner-Chappell Music and Warner Entertainment – so that high school music students can remain engaged during these extraordinary times.
The permissions, which expire on June 15, are designed to enable students to complete the remainder of the school year. The five publishers account for about 95 percent of available educational music.
More than four million high school students participate in activities other than sports; and with their year-end events canceled or postponed, the relaxing of copyright restrictions has delivered a ray of sunshine to many music students across the country.
The NFHS has been a national leader in helping schools maintain compliance with copyright standards. In 2017, the free “Understanding Copyright and Compliance” online education course was first offered on the NFHS Learning Center ( Last year, two new segments were added to the course, which now includes separate tracks for music teachers, spirit coaches, school administrators, speech and debate directors, and theatre directors.
As we begin to look at resuming high school activity programs down the road, an openness to meeting the needs of high school activity participants in different ways may become the norm. We thank these major music publishers for getting us started down that path.   

Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff is beginning her second year as executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the first female to head the national leadership organization for high school athletics and performing arts activities and the sixth full-time executive director of the NFHS, which celebrated its 100th year of service during the 2018-19 school year. She previously was executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference for seven years.