Whatever it is you’ve created that’s worth protecting has to be set out in some tangible form, so whether it’s music, lyrics, artwork or ‘all of the above’, get them written down, saved and/or recorded if applicable and get them protected!



Music copyright applies to a musical composition when it is set down in permanent form, either by writing it down or in any other manner.

With a song there will usually be more than one copyright associated with it. If you are the composer of the music you will be the author of the musical work and will have copyright in that music. The lyrics of a song are protected separately by copyright as a literary work. The person who writes the lyrics will own the copyright in the words.

If your work is subsequently recorded the sound recording will also have copyright protection. The producer of the recording will own the copyright in the Sound Recording.

Composers of music may also have Moral Rights in their work.

Copyright is like any form of physical property in that you can buy it, sell it, inherit or otherwise transfer it, wholly or in part. Therefore, some or all of the economic rights may subsequently belong to someone other than you, the first owner.


Sound Recordings.

In the case of a sound recording the author and first owner of copyright is the record producer.

Sound recordings do not have to be original but they will not be new copyright works if they have been copied from existing sound recordings.  It may be therefore that the courts would consider that your re-mastering of an existing recording does not have copyright protection.

Sound recordings may also contain Performers Rights.


Original Works.

A work can only be original if it is the result of independent creative effort. It will not be original if it has been copied from something that already exists. However, if it is similar to something that already exists but there has been no copying from the existing work, either directly or indirectly, then it may be considered original.

The term “original” also involves a test of substantiality – literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works will not be original if there has not been sufficient skill and labour expended in their creation. But, sometimes significant investment of resources without significant intellectual input can still count as sufficient skill and labour. Ultimately, only the courts can decide whether something is original.

There is much case law indicating, for example, that names and titles do not have sufficient substantiality to be original and that, where an existing work is widely known, it will be difficult to convince a court that there has been no copying if your work is very similar or identical.


Artistic Works. (i.e. photographs and artwork).

Copyright applies to Original Artistic Works such as paintings, drawings, engravings, sculptures, photographs, diagrams, maps, works of architecture and works of artistic craftsmanship.

If you wish to use or copy copyright protected artistic works you may need permission from the right holder, unless copyright exceptions apply. So, for example, if you wish to copy say, a Disney cartoon character onto your CD cover, you will almost certainly need a licence to do this to avoid infringing copyright.


Spoken Word. (i.e. lyrics).

There is no copyright in speech (lyrics) unless and until it is recorded. If your lyrics are recorded, that is either in writing or by other means such as by electronic means, then the words of your speech will be protected as a Literary Work.