How is music protected in copyright?
Each part of music is protected by copyright in different ways:
"Musical Work" = the music itself
"Written/Literary Work" = the lyrics
"Printed Music" = Staff notation, neumatic notation, chord symbols, tablature, graphic scores, braille, and tonic sol-fa
"Sound recordings" = a whole or partial recording of music (also includes other work such as dramatic works) which the work can be reproduced from. E.g. vinyl, tape recordings, and CD's
And for how long is it copyrighted?
Every new idea that is written down or documented/recorded in some way is automatically copyrighted, however it lasts for a limited time after the death of the creator.
Copyright for "Musical Works" usually lasts from 70 years of the death of the last known author. (For operas, specifically, copyrights lasts for 70 years from the death of either the librettist or the composer, whichever is longer-lived)
If the author is unknown, then the copyright lasts for 70 years from when the music was first made public - e.g. performed.
For "Sound Recordings" the copyright is 50 years after the death of the longest-lived author, or 70 years from the date it was published or made public.
Important to note:
It is important to check the licenses of material that you purchase from music purchasing websites (like iTunes) before reusing it as it may not be in the public domain or under a Creative Commons licence. Just because you have bought and own the copy of the work does not mean you are able to re-use it.
In most cases, permission is always needed before using/reusing ANY piece of musical work.
Exceptions for use of printed music include:
Use for research or private study; caricature, comedy or pastiche; and illustration for instruction (meaning the use of small extracts as examples for teaching purposes).
This is all as long as the idea of "fair dealing" is followed - i.e. using a piece of the work rather than the entire work.
(See the "Copyright of Written Works" tab on this guide for more information about "fair dealing")
Caricature, Parody and Pastiche:
This exception allows for some amount of work (to the extent that is "fair dealing") to be re-worked/built upon in these forms. Often this allows for a small part of the original, single piece of work to be adapted and used in another, new, single piece of work.
The gov.uk 'Copyright notice: Printed Music' PDF, contains some useful information (see the 'sources' box below for instructions of how to find it), but here is a summary of some key points below:
When seeking permission to use music, the MPA can help people to get in touch with the owners of music copyright - go to https://mpaonline.org.uk/ and search for their FAQ's and look for 'How can I use music published by a music publisher'
What if I want to perform a musical work?
- For useful definitions of the terms related with 'Grand Rights' search for 'PPL PRS grand rights' in your web browser and find the 'Theatres Music Licence' title on the PPL PRS website. Once on the site scroll down to the drop-down menus to find more information on grand rights.
If the work is under copyright, permission is needed from those who hold the copyright before you can make your own arrangement of the work.
MPA online has a short notice about arranging music, go to - https://mpaonline.org.uk/ and search 'musical arrangement'
- This MPA 'advisory note' states that: 'The process for this is generally to ask for permission from the music publisher who owns/controls the work before the arrangement is made, although final permission may not be granted until the publisher has seen the new arrangement.'
https://www.copyrightuser.org/ '28 The Musician and the Machine' - to find the page go to this link and search 'musician and the machine'
Intellectual Property Office 'Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988' - go to https://www.gov.uk/ and search 'copyright acts and related laws' to find the file
Meletti, B. and Bonazzi, D. 'Using and Reusing' https://www.copyrightuser.org/ - to find the 'Using and Reusing' page go to this link and search 'using'
MPA Online - https://mpaonline.org.uk/
Both PRS for Music and PPL PRS are useful sources for music copyright - just search for them in your browser
For more information about musicians and copyright see - https://www.copyrightuser.org/ - and search for 'Creators Discuss'
For the full information of printed music copyright see - https://www.gov.uk/ - and search for 'copyright notice printed music' (There will be a useful PDF under 'Copyright notice: Printed Music')
All gov.uk information and pages are licenced under the Open Government Licence - https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/
Musical note icons from - https://fontawesome.com/v4.7.0/