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Home > Using Copyright > Compilations, Music, Images > Music


If you wish to use music in a multimedia project or web page, or play music (either live or recorded) at a public event or in the classroom, you need to determine if you need a license and if so, from whom.

Music may have multiple copyrights:
  • Composition
  • Lyrics
  • Recording by an artist

Using music may involve many licenses:

  • Performance
  • Synchronization
  • Mechanical
  • Publishing

Rights in music
There are separate copyrights for

  • Musical compositions (written music and lyrics)
  • Recordings of performances of compositions (vocal or instrumental)

Standard industry practice is that songwriters retain the rights to their compositions (usually the composer and lyricist jointly hold the rights), while recording studios generally own the rights for the recordings performed by various artists.

Music licenses
Associations handle much of music licensing, and many rights may be obtained through blanket and compulsory licensing schemes. If you are seeking rights to music that is not licensed through established channels, clearing rights could involve separate negotiations with song writers, heirs, agents, publishers, recording studios and/or performing rights agencies.

Using music at UW

    In the classroom
    A specific exemption within the law allows for the performance of music by either live or recorded means in the course of face-to-face teaching activities in a classroom at non-profit educational institutions. No additional permissions are required for this use.

    For use of sheet music for academic study, instruction and emergency copying for imminent performance, the guidelines for educational uses of music may be helpful.

    Performing or playing music at events
    Performing music for any group beyond the normal family circle generally requires a public performance license. Most public performance rights are administered through performing rights associations such as American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC).

Public Performing License
UW has obtained public performance licenses with each of these agencies and faculty, students, and staff may play or perform music covered by these licenses at UW events without obtaining separate performance rights permission.

    Determine Coverage
    To determine if your musical selections and performance are covered by the licenses, you'll need to see if one of the agencies manages the rights for your selections by checking the online catalogs for BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC.

    Check License
    Once you determine that your music is covered by one of these agencies, check the licenses to see if your use is covered.

    TV Broadcast Not Covered
    The public performance licenses do not include digital uses or televised broadcasts. If you intend to use music for these or other purposes not covered the licenses, or if you wish to use music that is not in the catalogs of these agencies, you may need to seek permission to use the work by contacting the composer or recording studio.

Broadcasting music via radio, television or internet
Broadcasting music via UW radio stations is covered by UW's public performance licenses for all works in covered by the licenses.

    Not Covered
    Broadcasting music in connection with UWTV or other televised programs, and using music on web pages is not covered UW's public performance licenses and separate permission may be required.

    In addition to a performance rights license, licenses may be required to synchronize music with images and broadcast these works.

Using music in audio-visual productions

    Movie, Slide Show or Video
    If you intend to use music in a timed relation with a visual work (such as a movie, slide show or video) you may need to obtain a synchronization license from the music publisher.

    Sync Rights
    Synchronization licenses are commonly known as "sync rights" and are used extensively in the motion picture and television industries. Depending on the use of the work, you may need both a performance license and a synchronization license.

    Sync licenses may or may not be required for multimedia applications where music may be included in a work, but not necessarily in a timed relation to visual works. If you intend to use music in this manner, other licenses may be required. These licenses may be obtained from the music publisher or through the Music Publishers Association, which grants rights through the Harry Fox Agency, or similar agency.

Making a recording of a published composition
Making a new recording of a musical composition exercises the copyright owner's exclusive work to reproduce the work. Obtaining rights for this purpose is through a mechanical license. Mechanical licenses are part of a compulsory licensing scheme defined in the copyright act and require a payment of royalties from sales of copies of the recording.

Publishing music
A music publishing license may be required to create printed sheet music from copyrighted compositions. This type of license may be required if you intend to reproduce sheet music in a multimedia or web page application.


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