Music and copyright
Music and copyright

The following TMT guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Music and copyright
  • Protected works
  • Authorship and ownership
  • Qualification
  • Duration
  • Infringement
  • Defences and permitted acts
  • Regulation on online content portability

Protected works

In the context of music, under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988), copyright subsists in the following categories of works:

  1. original literary or musical works (recorded in some form), and

  2. sound recordings

A ‘musical work’ is a 'work consisting of music, exclusive of any words or action intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music'. For a work to attract musical copyright protection, there are three essential ingredients:

  1. it must consist of 'music'. Music is distinguished from 'mere noise' as being a combination of sounds for listening to and which produces effects of some kind on the listener's emotions and intellect. A musical work also comprises all those 'elements that make some contribution to the sound of the music when performed, such as performing indications, tempo and performance practice indicators'

  2. it must be 'original'. The UK test for originality requires the creation of the work by skill and labour and not as a result of 'slavish copying'. Note that under EU law, an original work is a work which expresses the intellectual creation of an author (there is little difference between the two tests in practical terms)

  3. it must be 'recorded' in some form (this might be a recording on something like a laptop or even a smart phone—it doesn’t need to be