Home > Reading Room > Music Copyright

Music Copyright

Written by Muhammed Poswall on 30 August 2014

« Return to Reading Room


What work is protected- in the Music industry?


Within the industry of music there are many areas that are protected under UK copyright law. The areas are diverse and can vary from literary and musical works, sound recordings and films.


These protections can be found in the CDPA.


To further explore the definitions of what is covered under the CDPA, a brief summary of the areas are explained below:
•·         Literary works include song lyrics. (N.B exceptions are drama or musical work).
•·         On the other hand, the music performed alongside the lyrics classify under Musical works.
•This coincides with section 3(1) CDPA and a useful guide is the case of Sawkins v Hyperion Records Ltd [2005] EWCA Civ 565.
•·         Likewise, Sound recordings are protected under section 5A (1) CDPA. The protection does not exist in circumstances where the sound recording has been copied from a previous recording; section 5A (2) CDPA. 
•·         Finally, a Film is defined as a moving image and this is protected under section 5B (1) CDPA.


What Copyright exists in music?


There are 2 types of copyright concerning music copyright;


1.The traditional ©, ‘C in a circle’ copyright, applies to the composition, musical score, lyrics, as well as any artwork or cover designs


2.The second type of copyright applies to the sound recording itself, and is signified by the ‘P in a circle’


3.What qualifies for protection of copyright?


The requirements to qualify for protection are stated in section 153 (1) (1) (a) CDPA. This determines the author of the work must be
•(a) a British citizen, or
•(b) an individual domiciled or resident in the United Kingdom or another country to which the relevant provisions of this Part extend, or
•(c) a body incorporated under the law of a part of the United Kingdom or of another country to which the relevant provisions of this Part extend.




•The work must have first been published in the UK or a country to which the CDPA extends.


Ownership of copyright


Generally, the first owner of the copyright will be the owner. However if this was a joint work, then each joint author has the same rights as a sole author would have.


How long the copyright lasts:


Works made on or after 1 August 1989:           


Protection starts from the date the work was created however the expiry date of each work varies;


•For literary and musical works, the protection ends 70years from the end of the calendar year of when the author dies.


•For films, the expiry date is determined by the year in which the following persons die: Principal Director, Author of the Screen Play, Author of the Dialogue, and the Composer of the music used in the film (Section 13B (2), CDPA.)


When the author is unknown, there are certain rules as to when the protection expires. The basics are the protection of literary, music work and film will last 70 years after the work was made or made available to the public.


On the 1 November 2013, there were amendments on the law of copyright for sound recordings-Copyright and Duration of Rights in Performances Regulations 2013. In the revised rules of sound recordings, the copyright protection was extended from 50 years to 70 years. In addition to this, for co-written musical work, the 70 years copyright protection expires after the death of the last surviving author.


The rights of copyright protection:


Two types of infringing acts;


1)    Primary Infringement – Strict Liability; no intention or knowledge required on behalf of the defendant. Examples of Primary Infringement Acts;


·           Copying a copyright work.


·           Issuing copies to the public.


·           Renting or lending the work to the public.


·           Performing, showing or playing a copyright work in public.


·           Communicating the work to the public.


These are known as restricted acts in which are performed without a licence or permission of the copyright owner.


    2) Secondary Infringement – Defendant must have had certain knowledge at the time of the offence.


Summarily, an infringement occurs when the restricted acts are committed in relation to the whole or substantial part of the work, either directly or indirectly.


Permitted acts


There are certain exceptions in which the CDPA allow acts to be permitted. Exceptions often arise when an ‘incidental inclusion’ occurs. This is when a music work, lyrics or a sound recording is included in another piece of work. This is only permitted if it is not done deliberately.  Another exception is ‘the playing or the showing right’. This is when something is broadcasted to a public audience without paying for admission. The playing or showing of an excepted sound recording is permitted if the playing or showing of the broadcast in which it is included is necessary to repair equipment for receiving broadcasts.


Remedies available


In cases of copyright infringements, damages and injunctions are available in the same way an infringement as for any other property right would happen, Section 96 (2) CDPA. There are also criminal offences provided in the CDPA.


Moral Rights (droit moral)


There are also Moral Rights which provide protection for the integrity of the work- this is separate from copyright. Moral rights apply to literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works and films. The rights, which last for the normal term of copyright, is the life of the author plus 70 years, include the right of paternity; this allows you to be properly identified as the author of the work. There is the integrity right; this protects your work being subjected to derogatory treatment. (Moral rights have no economic value. They cannot be assigned, but can be waived)


This article was written by Murshida Khan whilst on work experience with Lawdit.


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.

Want to speak
to someone?

Complete the form below and we’ll call you back free of charge.

Visual Captcha