So how come Burroughs follows the rules, but BHS doesn’t


A silly decision that’s bound to be overturned on appeal. Tresona is indeed a bona fide licensing agent for the creators.

The issue also goes way beyond this one teacher. The over-confident “qualified immunity” defense for “public school teachers” alone is a hoot,*** and the “fair use” defense validated by the judge that “teaching” cannot infringe on copyrights because it is automatic fair use on its face is insulting to read. This would easily grant every so-called “teacher” the right to use anything they want to for free if allowed to stand.

The ruling also evades and misstates the obvious non-teaching managerial role of this so-called teacher in a six-figure enterprise, which is indeed what the Burbank Vocal Music Association is. No explanation either from the defendants (or the newspaper) as to why our other local high schools follow all of these same rules, but that this bloated, tacky, and overly-commercialized VMA won’t:

A music-licensing firm plans to file an appeal upon recently losing a portion of a lawsuit against the operator of Burbank High School’s show choirs and its booster association.

Arizona-based Tresona Multimedia accused Burbank High’s choir director, Brett Carroll, and the Burbank High School Vocal Music Assn. of copyright infringement, according to the federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona in June…

But it was ruled earlier this month that Tresona lacked standing to three of four songs mentioned in the complaint because three of the songs had multiple songwriters who collectively owned the copyright, so it was not 100% exclusive to Tresona, said Aaron Craig, who represented Carroll in the case.

Well then, BHS needs to be sued by someone else who counts. And this particular trial court has an odd interpretation of copyright liability, as if “collective” ownership somehow voids enforcement of the individual rights of the named creators. Are they confusing it with “corporate”? (That 100% interpretation only holds in the Ninth, btw. )

It was also ruled that Carroll was “immune from the lawsuit as a public employee and that his actions were reasonable,” according to a statement from Craig’s firm.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Craig said Tresona claimed the show choirs needed to secure grand rights, but that theory was “untested,” Craig said.

“They’re really a very aggressive company that came out of nowhere with untested theories,” Craig said. “We’re thrilled for Mr. Carroll to have defeated Tresona. Tresona’s a very aggressive copyright troll.”

With whom everyone but BHS is willing to agree and work with, apparently. Clearly though, if BHS wants to play showbiz Big Boys here then they better be able to do it frigging’ right.

Here’s the sickest part though. Is this a high school we’re talking about?

Meanwhile, the vocal music association is waiting for a separate judgment on a third-party lawsuit the group filed against Squareplay Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based company that allegedly provided the group with song arrangements.

The association paid Squareplay Entertainment more than $100,000 to create the arrangements, according to court records. If the association is found liable in the Tresona case in the future, the school organization wants Squareplay Entertainment to pay for any damages.

A hundred-thousand dollars? And an arranger wouldn’t be liable for this legality anyway.

Remember when Reg Hall would pencil out his own arrangements between class periods?  Usually he’d do it standing up. We’re still wondering too why Burbank canned the BHS instrumental guy right after this decision came out.

They do that kind of stuff you know. What do you want to bet that all of his groups got the proper licenses?

*** This is one of the dumbest things we’ve ever read in a court ruling, and it’s especially irresponsible given the precedent the judge admits he’s establishing:



Because it’s so uncertain to know if you’re responsible for something as a teacher, that’s reason why you shouldn’t be!

There you go. That’ll establish it. And claimed ignorance about copyright law — when the school next door is following the same rule and you’re not — is bliss! They knew that it’s not “fair use” to perform songs in school, so how come the guy at BHS didn’t?

This judge just claimed that he’d have no reason to know it at BHS. So much for the ruling.



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6 responses to “So how come Burroughs follows the rules, but BHS doesn’t

  1. Anonymous

    semi, why then is Burroughs mentioned by the judge as using two songs without licenses? I’m thoroughly confused.

    • semichorus

      Apparently Burroughs was doing this at the BHS booster events, not on their own. AFAIK they get licenses for their own performances. Or at least that one publisher says they do (PEN). Their particular issue was with BHS and the VMA.

      Tresona also alleges that the VMA and this BHS teacher tell these other schools that they don’t need the grand rights licenses. Wonderful.

      The judge (amazingly) conveniently glides over the “fair use” exception to these licensing rules, and I think it’s absurd for him to claim that this BHS teacher maintains qualified immunity because he in good faith had “reasonable” cause to believe that these performances qualified as fair use.

      On what planet would that be? The contention that Tresona must have 100 percent ownership representation in order to have “standing” in court also needs to be addressed.

      There might be good reasons btw to sever this BHS vocal teacher from the lawsuit, but qualified immunity for copyright cases, or his “reasonable” ignorance of copyright laws and licensing procedures for a six-figure performance outfit, are not good reasons.

      I also don’t buy the judge’s claim that this teacher only has a “liaison” role with the Boosters, or that the VMA is part and parcel of the BUSD, i.e., that he’s only in a “teacher’s” role.

      I’m still wondering what the OTHER music teacher at BHS said about this, if anything; or about general BHS knowledge of performance responsibilities.

      The one that just got suddenly fired.

    • Anonymous

      Where is the school board on this? You’re right semi, Mr. Hall was a class act with everyone.

  2. Anonymous

    What I don’t understand is that if the teacher thought he had a fair use right to use these songs in an educational setting then why did he bother to get the other licenses?

    • semichorus

      Yeah, it doesn’t add up. The judge is really reaching on that one. No one in a longtime teaching position would “reasonably” think this was a fair use classroom setting, or — if most every other school group was getting all the licenses — he was not aware of current law or practices.

      And yet, he was granted that excuse for both establishing immunity and having any problem at all notwithstanding. I also don’t understand how Tresona can protect their turf or even operate at all if they have to establish 100 percent representation for standing in court.

      They seem to win cases! And that supposed precedent cited by the judge only applies in the Ninth.

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