What is copyright?

When a person or company creates material – be it a work of literature, art, music, film or broadcast – copyright gives that person the right to control the use of their material. Copyright is designed to protect the creator of the content, and is designed to inform who can copy, adapt or distribute that work without permission and when this is allowed.

Copyright can protect a number of types of content including novels, computer programmes, song lyrics, newspaper articles, music, photographs, maps, logos and film. Copyright also applies to any medium including the internet and applies to downloading, sharing, and streaming.

Why is copyright important?

Copyright laws protect those who work in the creative industries, allowing them to be rewarded fairly and to continue to create music, film and TV programmes. It also means that the creators are able to invest in new content, albums, films and TV.

Find out more about Copyright from the Intellectual Property Office.

Downloading and Using Music

Please note: Using illegal sites and file-sharing programmes can be risky and if you download digital content illegally, you could be breaking the law and face consequences. 

There are a multitude of websites which promote copyright or royalty free music. Make sure that you read the small print as many sites ask for a license fee to use the track. There may be different conditions for how and where it will be used too.

Film creating / editing software may also offer music to use for free within a project, but this does not always mean you have a license to use the track.

For example, some may provide tracks free of charge but ask you to credit them with a link to their website. The safest bet is to record something from scratch but if you do choose to use something pre-recorded, then make sure you do have permission or the right to use it.

How can you protect your copyright?

You might have created your own content that you want to protect and a useful step to take when material you wish to protect is published is to mark it with the international copyright symbol © followed by the name of the copyright owner and the year of creation.

If you have created content and wish to share it widely online a Creative Commons license could help. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organisation offering free, easy-to-use copyright licenses that provide a simple, standardised way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work. This works alongside copyright and enables you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.