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Music copyright

Written by MichaelCoyle on 23 November 2013

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In the context of music law and copyright the following categories of works are protected under UK copyright law: I think there are 4 main  categories provided they are original and are recorded in some way. The 4 are :-

1. Literary 

2. Musical works (section 1(1)(a), Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA)) 

3. Sound recordings and

4. Films (section 1(1)(b), CDPA).

 Literary works

The lyrics to 'I am a Walrus' is an example of a literary work ie any work other than a dramatic or musical work, which is written, spoken or sung, and therefore includes song lyrics.

The music is a separate work which would be protected as a musical work.

Musical works

The music which is accompanies the lyrics is a work consisting of music, exclusive of any words or actions intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music (section 3(1), CDPA). 

Sound recordings

A sound recording is defined as a recording of: Sounds, from which the sounds may be reproduced; or All or part of a literary, dramatic or musical work, from which sounds reproducing that work or part may be produced.

(Section 5A(1), CDPA.) Sound recordings are protected regardless of the medium on which the recording is made or the method by which the sounds are reproduced or produced (section 5A(1), CDPA). However, copyright does not subsist in a sound recording which is, or to the extent that it is, a copy taken from a previous sound recording (section 5A(2), CDPA).


A film is defined as a recording on any medium from which a moving image may be produced, whatever the means of doing so (section 5B(1), CDPA). Film soundtracks are protected by copyright as part of the film when accompanying the film and by sound recording copyright in all other circumstances (section 5B(2), CDPA).


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