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Using AudioVisual Resources for Teaching : Using Music

A Guide for Teaching Staff


Copyright in music protects the printed music as well as the recording/ performance. Performers also have rights in any recordings, films or broadcasts of their performances. It is these rights which can attract royalties and which can generate income for the performer. It also means that those who include performances in their recordings need to respect and often remunerate performers for their performance.

Sound recordings can be used without requiring specific permission from the rightsholder(s) where the work is out of copyright, an exception applies or the University holds a licence.

The rights in musical sound recordings and the music itself are licensed by Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) and the PRS for Music. These collecting societies joined forces to launch The MusicLicence to cover public performance of their members’ music. This is not a blanket licence covering every use of music across the University campus therefore please contact should you require a licence for use of music for a particular event, project etc.


Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Collection of CDsThere is an exception for playing or showing a film, sound recording or broadcast at an educational establishment to an audience of teachers and pupils for purposes of instruction which would enable playing a CD face to face on campus.  Unfortunately the exception doesn't allow staff to digitise a CD and stream it to students or staff off campus. 

However, fair dealing with a work for the purposes of illustration for instruction may allow a CD from the University's collection to be digitised and streamed off campus.  The text of the exception doesn't specify that you can only use it for extracts of a work so playing a whole sound recording could be defensible if necessary for the purpose.  It also has a 'no contractual override' clause so any wording on the CD about 'solely for personal use' or any other licence/contractual condition preventing use of the exception can be set aside.

The exception is subject to 'fair dealing' meaning the use must be fair taking into account the amount of a work used, the purpose and any impact on the economic rights of the copyright owners. Where the University has already paid for access to the CD and could legitimately show it in a face to face setting then digitising a CD in order for access to be provided to students off campus would be unlikely to affect the commercial interests of the sound recording's copyright owners. 

Access to the music can either be provided by streaming off campus during a live lecture or by making the music available in Myplace provided access is limited to the students that require it for their course and the period of time it is available is limited commensurate with the pedagogical purposes.  There must be clear attribution and we would suggest a copyright statement attached to /linked to the sound recording that makes it clear students must not copy it.

Music Streaming Services

What about music accessed via a streaming service?

With respect to music accessed via a streaming service such as Amazon Music if a lecturer wants to play extracts in the classroom or include extracts within teaching materials made available to students in Myplace then this is possible even if you access the music via your personal subscription and stream it in class or download the sound recording for listening offline as enabled via your subscription and add the clips to teaching materials.  Provided the clips are sufficiently acknowledged this would be covered by fair dealing for the purpose of illustration for instruction or quotation. If you are playing the work in a face to face class the exception which allows the playing of a sound recording in class to an audience of staff and students for instruction would also apply.

Using a whole sound recording is more complex.  Playing a whole sound recording in a face to face class would be covered by the exception for playing a sound recording at an educational establishment to an audience of teachers and pupils for purposes of instruction even where a personal subscription is used to show it. 

This exception doesn't cover communicating the sound recording to a remote audience so playing the sound recording in a virtual classroom or making a whole track available to students asynchronously in advance of a class is more problematic. 

The illustration for instruction exception, while it doesn't expressly exclude whole works, is subject to a fairness test and it is more difficult to justify as fair making a whole sound recording available to students rather than clips especially where the institution itself doesn't own a lawful copy.  There is an argument that making the whole sound recording available will negatively affect sales of subscriptions.  


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