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This is only a general guide to the copyright situation and is not to be taken as legal advice 


Under English law, copyrights automatically come into existence when a recording is made. In the case of musical recordings, any or all of the following copyrights might exist:

Some of these may be shared between different owners, for example several composers may have have contributed to the final version of a tune, and the shares may not be eqaully divided. In England, this copyright continues for 70 years after the death of each composer, resulting in a further complicatiom when one joint composer dies before the other.

Lyrics are generally subject to the same copyright arrangments as musical compositions, but when the lyrics have been taken from a work of literature there may be other arrangments.

There may be different versions of a musical work, arranged for different instruments or in different styles or levels of difficulty.In that case, there may be an arranger's copyright independently of the composer. It is also possible that the arranger may have been under contract to the composer or a music publishing house, in which case the arranger's rights might be owned by the composer or the publisher.

Publishers often bought songs or musical works outright, with the composer's, lyricist's and arranger's rights being assigned to the publisher.

A performance of a musical work is covered by a copyright which belongs to the performer or to the 'owner' of a musical ensemble. Sometimes the members of an ensemble share the rights between themselves in some agreed proportion.

In the case of a work involving many performers or complex arrangements, a producer may have been necessary. The producer will have rights in the version of the performance which is issued as a recording.

The recording engineer has rights to any recordings he or she makes. Often the recording engineer was employed by the record company and would have assigned his rights to the company, but a freelance enginer may have retained the copyright.

The record company often employed the producer, recording engineer and performers under contract, so all their rights would have been assigned to the company. In addition, the company would own the company name, trade marks and artwork. None of these can be reproduced without permission.

If an old recording has been re-issued on another format, e.g. a 78 rpm disc re-issued as a CD, the transcription engineer or the company which employed him will have rights in the CD recording, even though all the previous rights may have lapsed.



When you buy an L.P., a CD or an MP3 download, you buy the rights to listen to that recording yourself, you can also play it in the privacy of your own home to friends or relatives. In the case of an MP3 or other computer-based recording, you are unlikely to face prosecution if you make a single backup copy, but you do not have a legal right to do so.



You don't buy the rights to broadcast the recording, to play it in public or to put it on the Internet. You can't charge people for listening to it, even in your own home or at a private event. You do not purchase any rights over the music, which means that you have no right to make copies for sale or even to give away or keep for your own use. It is the policy of POPPY RECORDS to refuse to make copies of recordings when they would infringe copyright.


If you are in any doubt, please contact the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society for advice.