Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Open Letter to @TaylorSwift13

This open letter is to Ms. Swift in an effort to get her permission to use a couple of her songs for a student production of Romeo and Juliet.

Dear Ms. Swift,

My name is Nicholas Provenzano and I am a high school English teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI. I started a big project this year with my Freshman English class. They are producing an updated version of Romeo and Juliet with another high school in Van Meter, IA. The goal of the project is to have students dive into Romeo and Juliet by working on different parts of a production. The kids are very excited about the project and have been working very hard for the better part of a month. We are looking to premiere our finished film on April 30th just for the students and parents at both schools. We are not selling tickets or copies of the production, just showing the school the awesome project the kids completed. You can read more about the specifics on the project wiki.

One part of the project is creating the soundtrack to accompany the production. While reviewing the work the students had completed, I noticed that two of your songs appeared regularly on my students' play lists, "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me". When asked by the students to include them in the finished movie I told them I think these are wonderfully written songs that would be perfect for the story they have written, but they are not allowed to use the songs without the artist's permission. They were bummed, but are still working hard to create a great production. However, I'm not one to give up that easy and let my kids down.

This is where I hope you can help. I want to ask for your permission to use your two songs in the student's production of Romeo and Juliet. My kids have been working hard all year and this project is the culmination of months of dedication. I always tell kids that hard work pays off and you are rewarded in the end. I cannot think of anything more fitting that adding these songs to our project. It never hurts to ask and the best way I thought I could get a hold of you was to use my connection with teachers from all over the world to reach out to you in the hopes of a response. I would love to surprise my students and let them know they got permission. I know this is something they would remember for years to come and your approval would be the cherry on top of an already amazing cake.

My goal as a teacher is to try and inspire kids to become passionate about literature and express it in their writing. My students have shown an amazing dedication to this project and I could not be prouder of their effort. Please consider allowing them to use your songs in the production. If you want, I could possibly persuade the directors to give you a walk-on role as a thank you. :-)

Thanks for your time and hope all things are well where you are.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at Nicholas.Provenzano@gpschools.org, @TheNerdyTeacher, or my school Twitter account @MrProvenzano.

Thanks again.

- Nicholas Provenzano
Grosse Pointe South English Teacher


  1. I wish it wasn't so difficult to get permission for educational use. I had the same problem with the song "Heal the World" by Michael Jackson. Had a great video with G. 3 students showing respect, and sent letters to many places with no response to get permission. Is there a way to get rights to use songs for Ed. use?

  2. I concur. It's much too hard for people not in the entertainment industry to even find out whom to contact, more or less get permission. Ugh.

  3. http://www.harryfox.com/index.jsp

    May be who to ask for this kind of permission.

  4. Amen...

    It shouldn't be this difficult to get permission for education use...
    Good luck Nick


  5. Wonderful work you are doing with your students and I hope (and believe) you will get the permission!

    For you, Nick and your class: Go go goooooo!!!!!! Good luck : )

    Kindest regards,

  6. I am no expert in Fair Use, but I have been learning more about it lately and the whole repurposing and transformative use of copyrighted material opens the door much wider for what we can use as students & teachers. There has to be some critical thought put into the context and situation of how those songs are used in the production (if they are simply there "to convey a mood or emotional tone" then they don't qualify under fair use) and after hashing it all out, your students can articulate that they are adding value and that the use is transformative in nature, then the use might fall under fair use. Again, not sure of all of it but it is a perfect opportunity for teaching some media literacy. Check out pg 12-13, #4 here http://mediaeducationlab.com/sites/mediaeducationlab.com/files/CodeofBestPracticesinFairUse.pdf Also, this wiki http://copyrightconfusion.wikispaces.com/ is a great place to get more info on making sense of Fair Use. Hope this helps.

  7. I would just use it. What are they going to do...sue you?? I use songs all the time in video productions for educational use. Luckily, I am overseas though ;)

  8. I believe Taylor Swift has a Twitter account so you might want to send her a tweet with the link to your blog post asking her to comment and respond. Sometimes bypassing tons and tons of emails or contact with record labels is an easier way to contact recording artists.

    Kim Caise

  9. I think Taylor Swift's publisher is Sony/ATV. You can request a sync license via the following form.


    I don't know the time frame for them to respond, now how much they would want to charge, but its probably worth checking out to at least know for the future.

  10. I was going to say, I don't imagine Ms Swift has the rights to her own music (that she wrote and performed).

    This got me all worked up...



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