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Misconceptions Surrounding Music Copyright

Written by Rehana Ali on 23 December 2014

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There is a common misconception that under the Copyright Design Patents Acts 1988, a song contains copyright protection in its entirety, this is partly true however a more accurate statement would be...A song is made up of various different elements that each contain their own individual copyright that may be owned by more than one person. For example a typical song released today may have copyright protection in the following:

  • The Music /Melody.
  • The lyrics/words.
  • The Arrangements.
  • The Production.
  • The Performance:
  • The Picture, Artwork / Logo: (On the sleeve or cover or CD).
  • The Group or Artists name.

The lyrics of a song are protected as a literary work. A Literary work is defined as 'any work, other than a dramatic or musical work which is written, spoken or sung' section 3(1) CDPA 1988.

The accompanying music to the lyrics are protected under thier own head of copyright, the actual recording of the song is protected under the heading of “sound recording”. A sound recording is defined as ‘a recording of sounds, from which 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 1988 specifically excludes copyright protections from subsisting in sound recordings that are a copy of a previous sound recording. It should be mentioned however, if a song is part of a soundtrack to a film for the purpose of copyright, it will be considered part of the film, and thus will be protected under Section 5B(2) CDPA 1998.

So bearing in mind the above, if you are planning on creating or releasing a song in collaboration with another person i.e. a producer etc, merely being the artist that sings the song does will not entitle you to hold the copyright in the entire song! (unless the relevant consents are obtained).

If you'd like to know more about this article please send an email to Michael Coyle quoting the article title and any questions you might have, alternatively call the office number on 02380 235 979 or send an enquiry through our contact form.

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