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This content is taken from the The University of Glasgow's online course, Music Copyright: Understanding UK Copyright Law When Working with Music. Join the course to learn more.

Do I always need permission to use copyright protected works?

When you want to use a work that is in copyright, usually you need to get permission from all copyright owners. Some works have several rights attached to them and each right may have more than one owner so you may need to get permission from them all.

You can get permission to use someone else’s work through an assignment of rights or a licence. An assignment of copyright usually involves a transfer of the ownership of the copyright from one person to another. A licence is essentially a permission to make use of a work in a way that, without permission, would constitute copyright infringement. In other words, the grant of a licence means the licensee (the person to whom the licence is granted) can make use of the work without infringing the copyright in the work. When granting a licence the copyright owner retains an interest in the copyright; that is, unlike an assignment, with a licence usually no property interest passes from the copyright owner to the licensee.

However, you do not always need to get permission in order to use a copyright works. There are cases in which, under certain conditions, it is possible to use copyright protected works without having to get permission from the copyright owner. These are known as copyright exceptions and in the UK they permit, for example, creating a parody of a work, quoting from a work to critique or review it, reporting newsworthy events, engaging in private study or non-commercial research, archiving and preservation activities, as well as a number of classroom and other educational uses.

In the video above, while the business man needs a licence from the first illustrator in order to manufacture and sell toy versions of his robot, the second illustrator can create a parody of the robot without having to ask for permission. She benefits from the exception for ‘parody, caricature or pastiche’.

Benefitting from these exceptions often turns on the concept of fair dealing. In other words, to rely on the exception your use of the work must be fair. Indeed, the general nature and scope of exceptions to copyright are that they do not interfere with the normal exploitation of the work by the author or the copyright owner.

We will explore in more detail when you need or do not need to get permission from the copyright owner to use their work in Step 1.7

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This video is from the free online course:

Music Copyright: Understanding UK Copyright Law When Working with Music

The University of Glasgow