Highland High students are putting the finishing touches on the school's video yearbook.
But no one can purchase it this spring, for the first time in about 15 years.Possible copyright infringements on music bites has come to light, forcing the school to refund some $3,000 to early purchasers. Still, students are working into the night to complete video production rather than waste hundreds of hours of work, said teacher Ralph Smart.
"It was kind of an all-of-a-sudden wham!" Smart said of the copyright notification. "(Students) are upset about it. But we're going to find a way around it yet."
Each production student will be able to have copies of his project. But assistant principal Don Barlow says school officials are doing all they can to prevent a rumored "black market" for the "Highlights" video.
The video, typically shown to newcomers at freshman orientation, is a compilation of student activities throughout the year that may include published popular music or that played by school musicians.
The $20 video, which is separate from the traditional yearbook, was pre-sold to about 150 students. Proceeds pay for new equipment for the TV production class.
"Schools around the nation have produced video yearbooks," said principal Ken Powell. "I think all of us have known about copyrights and make sure we're adhering to that, but there has been a heightened awareness made to individuals in the community, both in private and public settings, to make sure."
Last February, school officials learned that the music bites they wanted to use were subjected to royalties under copyright laws. The issue at hand is that the students want to sell the video with its sound bites.
"We've done it for years and years and years and nobody paid any attention," said district media center supervisor Lesley McLaughlin, who was directed by Superintendent Darline Robles to check copyright laws and share information with teachers to ensure compliance.
Generally, duplicated portions of copyright materials can be used for research or instructional purposes in public schools under the law.
Those wanting to use music in video productions for sale must write the producer or a music agency for written permission to copy each song that would be used. The price of a synchronization fee is negotiated. Willful copyright infringement can cost thousands of dollars, but usually cases don't come to that.
"I've been thinking to myself, if we start early enough . . . why can't we expand the learning experience for kids and have them do the paperwork and the legwork?" said McLaughlin, adding such skills likely will be needed in the virtual workplace of the future with rampant use of Internet materials.
Copyright owners are starting to clamp down on their rights before they lose trademarks, particularly as technology forges ahead of copyright laws, said Doug Bates, director of school law and legislation for the State Office of Education. Copyright laws step into the gray with the Internet now.
"The teen market is a huge market. If kids are able to duplicate music and sell it, then you've got this problem of being able to draw the line and assert control over intellectual property," Bates said.
The state office over the years has received reports of copyright owners threatening schools with legal action if they don't stop infringements on such property, Bates said.
Smart said his students had time to go through the proper channels to secure the music for the video.
"I just thought I had it covered another way. That way fell through," said Smart, declining to identify the method. "We worked very hard to make it happen and it just didn't.
"It was a learning experience and, sadly, we learned the hard way."