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About copyright 

What is copyright?

Copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. It allows an original work to be considered a property that is owned by somebody. The framework for Copyright Law is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 ('the Act').

When does copyright begin?

In music, copyright begins automatically once a piece of music is created, and documented or recorded (eg. on video, tape or CD or simply writing down the notation of a score).

Does MCPS/PRS copyright music on my behalf?

Registering your music with MCPS or PRS does not create copyright. If you follow the suggestions outlined below you have a better chance of proving you own the copyright if any of your music is disputed.

How do you protect your music as a songwriter?

Currently, no official form of registration is available. In the UK, all original music is protected by copyright from the time it is recorded/written down in some format. It is important to be able to prove that you own the copyright of a particular recording. To do this we suggest the following:

  • Send a copy of the recording to yourself by 'Special Delivery'. Clearly mark the envelope so you know what music it holds but keep it sealed.


  • Store a copy with your solicitor or bank manager. Remember to keep a receipt and be aware that this method is likely to cost you some money.

What are your rights as a copyright owner?

If you own the copyright you possess the sole authority to:

  • copy the music
  • issue, lend or rent copies to the public
  • perform, show or play the music in public
  • communicate the music to the public (i.e. broadcasting it via TV, radio, Internet etc.)

What happens to your rights when you become a PRS member?

When joining PRS your rights are transferred to us. These are:

  • to perform the music in the public (concerts, pubs, shops etc)
  • to communicate the music to the public (including broadcasting, broadcasting on demand and use of music on the Internet interactive services, including satellite and cable transmissions)

What happens to your rights when you become an MCPS member?

MCPS acts as an agent on your behalf, to administer the following rights:

  • to copy the music (pressing CDs, downloads)
  • to issue copies of the work to the public (sale of CDs, tapes or vinyl in shops)
  • to rent or lend the work to the public (renting videos, tapes, CDs, library lending)

How long does copyright last?

In the UK, copyright generally lasts for a period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. If the music originates from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), the copyright lasts for as long as the music is protected by copyright in its country of origin, provided that the length of time does not exceed 70 years.

Further Info

Visit the government's copyright guidelines

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