Copyright infringement in the music industry
Produced in partnership with Wiggin
Copyright infringement in the music industry

The following TMT practice note produced in partnership with Wiggin provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Copyright infringement in the music industry
  • Rights of the copyright owner
  • Literary
  • Musical
  • Sound recordings
  • Film
  • Term and duration
  • Use of copyright notices
  • Authorship and ownership
  • Collaboration issues—case examples
  • More...

‘Copyright’ is a property right that subsists in various categories of work:

  1. original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works

  2. sound recordings, films, broadcasts or cable programmes, and

  3. the typographical arrangement of published editions

Copyright gives the owner of the work the exclusive right to do, and authorise others to do, certain acts in relation to that work. In the UK, copyright works have been formally categorised in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988).

Once a work has been recorded in some manner and, provided the work is original (although CDPA 1988 does not define originality), copyright will come into existence. For example, the notes and lyrics of a song will attract copyright protection if they are recorded on paper or electronically.

It is not necessary for the work to be registered to attract copyright protection. In the UK, in contrast to the regime for trade marks, patents and designs, no formal registration regime exists for copyright works.

Rights of the copyright owner

In relation to subsistence of copyright in music, the most relevant protected works are:


Under CDPA 1988, 'literary works' are works, other than a dramatic or musical work, which are written, spoken or sung. As such, lyrics from a song would constitute literary works.


A 'musical work' is defined by CDPA 1988 as a work consisting of music, exclusive of any words or action intended to

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