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Keokuk Schools Staying Silent about Show Choir Licensing


The Keokuk School District is remaining tight-lipped about an apparent licensing issue with its high school show choir program even though the topic came up during a public event in the community in late January.

State Sen. Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant) and State Rep. Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk) were taking audience questions during a legislative lunch in Keokuk when KHS Principal Adam Magliari rose to speak. He asked the lawmakers for assistance dealing with Tresona Multimedia, a music licensing company based in Arizona.

Magilari told the lawmakers and a crowd of about 40 people that the company is claiming that the KHS show choir program owes roughly $300,000 in licensing fees from previous years. He said the district in the meantime is working with Tresona on licensing for the current semester.

Magliari said only a few schools in Iowa were being targeted by Tresona, which he said is not right.

“To come after our kids, who fundraise like crazy just to perform,” said Magliari. “It’s not sustainable and it’s not sustainable to the smaller schools in Iowa.”

Tri States Public Radio sent an email with more than a dozen questions to district administrators and members of the Keokuk School Board seeking more information about the show choir licensing process and the claim from Tresona. The questions included:

  • 6.) Who currently pays for licensing rights… district? music boosters? 
  • 7.) Who has paid for licensing rights in the past... district? music boosters?
  • 8.) How much is being spent on licensing for this year of show choir?
  • 10.) Who would be on the hook for past licensing rights (2 years) if they must be paid?
  • 11.) Did Tresona send an actual bill to the Keokuk School District for the past licensing rights?
  • 12.) If so... how much was it for and when must be paid?
  • 14.) Is the school district seeking legal advice regarding this?

The district responded to Tri States Public Radio’s email three days later with the following statement.
“The Keokuk Community School District is currently discussing the licensing of music with Tresona.  The District and the Board of Directors have no further comment at this time.”

Tri States Public Radio then reached out to Tresona Multimedia. President Mark Greenburg agreed to answer questions via email. But he could not get into specifics involving Keokuk and the alleged $300,000 bill.

“I am unable to comment on any school's status as far as whether they are obtaining licenses or not obtaining licenses,” wrote Greenburg. “I am sure that you can appreciate our position on this.”

Greenburg did say that Tresona is the largest grantor of custom arrangement licensing in the world, adding that it “specializes in custom arrangement licensing, synchronization licensing, grand rights licensing, and adaptive rights licensing for ensemble-based performances.”

Greenburg also wrote, “A show choir would need to work with Tresona if they needed a license for musical compositions that are protected by copyright where Tresona has the exclusive right to issue the license or in instances where they needed licensing and found that Tresona was their best option for licensing for compositions we do not exclusively control."

For example, he said if a show choir wants to create a medley of three songs, a special license would be needed for each song. Specific licenses are also needed if a show choir performance will be recorded.

Greenburg said there are penalties if the proper licensing is not obtained.

“For each musical composition that has been infringed, a rights holder has the right to ask for statutory penalties that can be as high as $30,000 per work infringed and they can be $150,000 per work infringed if it can be determined that the work was willful,” said Greenburg.

Tresona Multimedia is suing a show choir in California for failing to secure proper licensing. The show choir being sued is reportedly the one that inspired the television show, Glee.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.