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Sound recordings

The copyright in a sound recording is separate from any copyright in the words and music contained in the recording. The composer of the music will be the author of the musical work and will have copyright in that music. The lyrics of the song are protected separately by copyright as a literary work and will usually be owned by the person who wrote them. The first owner of the copyright in a sound recording is usually the record producer.

If a work is recorded then copyright in this sound recording lasts for 50 years from the end of the year in which it was made or, if published in this time, 70 years from the end of the year of publication. If the recording is not published during the first 50 years, but it is played in public or communicated to the public during that period, then copyright will last for 70 years from the end of the year this happens. A sound recording may also contain performers' rights which last for 50 years from the end of the year in which it was made or if the sound recording is published or played in public or communicated to the public then the performers` rights will last for 70 years the the end of the year in which the first of these events occurs.

In September 2011 the European Union approved a directive External Link which extended the period of protection for sound recordings and performers' rights in most sound recordings to 70 years from 1st November 2013 and the Copyright and Duration of Rights in Performances Regulations 2013 came into force on that date**.

The IPO has published a User's Guide to the Directive PDF document(526Kb).

Sound recordings do not have to be original but they will not be new copyright works if they have been merely copied from existing sound recordings.

** The extension of the term of protection applies only to those sound recordings that were in copyright on 1 November 2013 and to any sound recordings made after that date. The Regulations do not have the effect of bringing back into copyright those sound recordings where copyright has expired.

Fast Facts

  • Please see Chapter I section 13A of the Act for duration of copyright in sound recordings