Copyright grants the copyright holder rights relating to the use of the copyright material, in addition certain moral rights are granted to the creator of the materials. Copyright is automatically granted when new creative material is produced - i.e. the material must be more than a simple collection of other data. Copyright is a separate item of property to the original work and the sale of the original work does not automatically pass copyright on to the new owner of that work (e.g. selling a score or painting does not automatically transfer the copyright). The particular rights and the duration of the copyright period are affected by the type of material.

For audio and digital music research, rights of particular interest relate to:
  • musical compositions and audio recordings - a CD can be covered by three separate copyrights, one for the design of the packaging, one for the sound recording on the CD and one for the musical composition recorded
  • typographical arrangements - these cover not only papers (which are also covered as literary works) but also the layout of spreadsheets and design of databases.

Pay The Piper has a very good post explaining music copyright, which includes:

If you compose a completely original piece of music then it is your own property - you own the copyright, in other words.

Arranging existing music is fraught with difficulties. To put it very simply (and this is indeed a gross simplification) until the composer has been dead for seventy years his music is copyright and you may not make a written arrangement of it without permission.

Lots more in the post though, so it's worth reading if you want to know more about music copyright!

It is important to note that copyright does not cover the ideas expressed within a work, only the particular form that that work has been captured in. The data within a spreadsheet is not copyright, only the particular layout of that data.

We note that simple anthologies - e.g. a collection of "complete works" or works created during a certain period - do not get copyright on the content, although the typographical layout may be copyright.

Fair dealing / fair use regulations allow specific uses of copies from original copyright materials (NB: not copies of copies!) without breaching copyright. However, fair use does not apply to sound recordings, films and broadcasts. There are JISC Guidelines for Fair Dealing in an Electronic Environment and specific clauses in the legislation on use in education in training or for personal study.

The legislation:

Moral Rights

The author of a work always retains two moral rights regarding the content:
  • The right to be identified as the author
  • The right to object to derogatory use of the material.

Database Rights

In the UK, if a "substantial investment" is made in "obtaining, verifying or presenting" the contents of a database then the database will be protected by database rights. The owner of those rights will be the person that "takes the initiative" in the creation of the database - that "person" being the employer if the database is made by an employee in the course of his work. Database rights are infringed by extraction or re-utilisation of a substantial part of the database.

Fair dealing rules exist for database rights - users of databases are allowed to extract data for non-commercial use in research and teaching (with acknowledgment of the source).

Database rights last for 15 years from the creation/publication of the database and may be renewed if the database changes substantially.

More information at: The act itself is at:

More Information

UK university materials regarding copyright and intellectual property: Further sources of information:

Some articles of interest from outside the UK

Australian IP law blog posts re. media and copyright. Includes: US articles from Public Domain Sherpa Tutorial on Copyright and the Public Domain
  • What makes a derivative work
    derivative must use enough of the prior work that the average person would conclude that it had been based on or adapted from the prior work
  • Compilations
    compilations are (c) if they show minimal creativity (e.g. not just all works by someone or by date)
  • Copyright Renewal
    Many works did not have copyright renewed and therefore went out of copyright and into the public domain in the US - estimated 15% of works had copyright renewed. Renewals will appear in the online US copyright database for works from 1950-1963,

CHM Super Sound (a South Pacific record company) state that :

A melodic phrase of a song is in copyright. The lyrics are in copyright. Chord progressions in a music composition however, are not copyright material.

University of Washington Copyright Connection

WIPO Understanding Copyright and Related Rights

Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works

Chord Progressions and Copyright: