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Music: Copyright and Plagiarism: Using Copyrighted Material

Free and Legal Materials

When Can I Use Someone Else's Work?

Using Someone Else’s Music

  • You can use someone else’s music when the work is in the public domain, your use falls under the fair use guidelines, or permission has been granted by the copyright holder.
    • This only works if you receive express permission from the owner of the copyright, which is not always the original creator

What About a Facsimile?

  • A copy of a composition does not add any original content, and the copyright remains with the owner of the piece.
  • You can use a facsimile of a score as long as you do not alter the original content, and you correctly cite your sources.

Using Someone Else’s Sound Recording

  • If the recording is not in the public domain, licensed under a Creative Commons license, or does not fall under fair use, you must seek permission and pay a licensing fee
  • If you are sampling a sound recording or composition in your own composition, you must seek permission from the copyright holder before doing so. If you are unable to secure a license, you must either alter the scope of the project to fall under fair use, or not use the sample.‚Äč

-Nancy Sims, Copyright Librarian and Lawyer

Your Rights as a Creator

What if Someone Infringes on Your Rights?

  • If someone uses your music or sound recordings without your permission, and the use does not qualify as fair use, your rights have been infringed. Copyright law allows you to recover an amount equal to the sales lost due to infringement.
  • To be eligible for compensation, you must have registered your work with the copyright office within 3 months of publication.

-Public Knowledge


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Irwin Library: 317-940-9227
Science Library: 317-940-9937

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