I'm considering starting a company that would create and sell pre-made lesson plans for language teachers based on copyrighted popular songs.

I am not a lawyer or legally inclined, but I imagine this type of thing would have a lot of legal red tape all around it. I don't know where to start. Since the songs are potentially produced in any country around the world, there might also be international law implications, or at least different local limitations depending on a per-song basis.

So that the product is reliable, I would prefer to have the songs stored on my app server, instead of asking teachers to "find" their own copy. This is especially true since the exercises would involve playing short sections of the songs so that students can answer questions about them.

So my first questions are very general: Is it even possible to pay some sort of fee for the use of the audio and lyrics in this type of context? Would the copyright payments on this type of business model be prohibitively high (assuming that the cost to teachers is low enough that educational establishments of varying sorts could afford them)?

What can anyone here offer me in terms of what they know about how this would work? And where can I go to learn more about the legal implications of this idea?

Thanks in advance,


1 Answer 1


To make a song available on a webpage, you need a license from the copyright holder of each song. The details of the license depend on your use, the licensing agency, and the item being licensed. Online music licensing is a business, and there are a number of options to choose from. One concern would be assuring that the service didn't just become a way to get free music. Whether or not you could find an agency willing to create such a license is, well, not a legal question.

Apart from the problem of making the works available online, there is also the matter of copyright and your lesson plans. It is not clear what the content of such lesson plans is, but if you would be inserting substantial excerpts from the lyrics into your text, you need permission (a license) to do that. You can certainly talk about Taylor Swift's "mean" in your book and can quote brief passages (under the "fair use" doctrine), but you can't just copy the lyrics without permission. The fact that you can easily find the lyrics online does not mean that those webpages do so with permission.

  • I'm not trying to make a song available on a webpage. I'm considering founding a company that will market song-based lesson plans to teachers, schools, universities, libraries etc, that will pay for the rights to have their students study these lessons through a web app. The song and parts of the song will need to be listened to by the students, but not by the non-paying public. This is preliminary research to determine viability, assuming all licensing fees are paid legally. I just don't even know what those fees would be.
    – pixelearth
    Nov 2, 2017 at 0:29
  • I think you need to explain in more detail how the student accesses the song: e.g. "they buy a copy at the store", or "we pay for a license, put it on a web page, students log in and listen, and do some exercise". The compu-tech details are not important, what matters is, how do you control who can copy the song? That will be the central issue for a license. If you can answer that, then call a license company to get a reasonable estimate.
    – user6726
    Nov 2, 2017 at 0:50
  • My current thinking is to offer yearly subscription-based institutional access based on the number of students and teachers. So a school could purchase a year subscription to the service for say 500 students.Teachers would choose lessons, and organize for students to log on and perform exercises.
    – pixelearth
    Nov 2, 2017 at 1:50

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