Monday, August 17, 2009

UK Music Copyright Law Basics by Barry D Walker

Confused about UK Copyright law in regards to music? Well, this article is here to help you understand about UK copyright law and expell some of the myths surrounding it.

How Do I Copyright My Music?

Once you have created a piece of music it is YOUR copyright, you just have to prove the date. To do this there are several ways such as giving a copy of the track to your lawyer. You can also post the track on a CD to yourself by registered post (signed for). Make sure that you have not only made an audio recording but also include your sequencer files as they will be dated by your computer also.

Do I Have To Register With MCPS/PRS?

No. A law was passed (in the UK) so that you can chose any person/organisation to represent your music and collect royalties. You can also do it yourself, collecting all the royalties and cutting out the middle man. However, collecting royalties and making sure that people aren't breaching your copyright can be time consuming if you become a big selling artist.

Can I Use Samples of Someone Else's Work In My Own Tracks?

No. You must not use anyone else work, no matter how long or short the sample is. Contrary to popular belief, samples under 15 seconds are NOT allowed under current copyright law. Also, even if you mangle the sample, its still illegal. So before sampling contact the owners.

There are tracks out there that you CAN sample, such as some tracks that have been released under certain open content licenses such as Creative Commons. But make sure that its ok by reading the license first as not all open content releases are available to create derivative versions of the works.

If you think its going be too much for you to get permission, there are sample clearance agencies that can do this for you.

Can I Create Cover Versions?

Yes and No. You can create the cover version, but you cannot distribute or perform the track without getting permission first. Usually venues pay a license for Copyrighted works of MCPS/PRS members music, but unfortunately not every musician is registered with MCPS/PRS. So make sure you know who they are registered with or if they collect their own royalties.

Copying it and distributing it is illegal without a license, so again contact MCPS/PRS or the original author before doing this.

Also, the same as remixes, there are tracks out their released under Creative Commons license and you may be allowed to create cover versions of the works. But, check the license before using the track.

What Is Creative Commons License?

A Creative Commons license is used for free material, including audio, and works alongside copyright so that you can set out the terms of the copyright to suit you. see

How Do I Make It Clear My Track Is Copyright?

On every demo you send out be it via post, email or link you can put "© 2009 Your Name". Or you can put "Copyright Control" which tells everyone that the track is copyrighted, but has no publishers yet.

Can I upload DJ Mixes I Mixed Myself?

Again, permission must be sought from the original authors of the material you are planning on using in DJ Mixes. Some websites claim to be legal to upload mixes to, but you have to be careful and check whether this is true or not. If you are unsure of the websites legality, then do not upload.

However, tracks released under the Creative Commons license CAN be used in FREE mixes you upload to the net as long as you do not make any money from the mixes. Check the Creative Commons license for full details.

Can I Add Someone Else's Music To A Video?

Permission again must be sought to use music in your video's. Even if you are not making any money, you still have to get permission.

Hopefully you have now gotten to grips with basic uk copyright law. If not here are the main points:

1. Copyright belongs to the creator as soon as it is created

2. If you don't own the copyright, then you cannot use it without permission in any works

Barry Walker is a dance music producer and owner of Dance Music Netlabel,


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