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Film and Video Institute

The world of non-commercial film and A-V


Most of this information is UK-specific. Laws and customs may be different in other countries.

Copyright and Licensing - introduction | avoiding problems | FAQs

The IAC Licensing - Copyright Clearance Scheme

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1. Copyright law is very complex and although great care has been taken in compiling these notes which are of particular interest to amateurs, neither the IAC nor the compilers accept responsibility for any inaccuracies or misunderstanding that may result from their use.
2. IAC has negotiated special arrangements with the various licensing bodies allowing the use of both Library music and Commercial recordings in members’ sound tracks for their video, film, and audio visual presentations.
3. Copyright is recognised by Acts of Parliament – the main legislation being the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 and subsequent amendments. The Law is designed to protect the ownership of the work of writers and composers and others to whom the creators of the work have assigned their Rights, as well as the manufacturers of sound recordings and broadcasting authorities.

4. Current legislation extends the protection period to SEVENTY years after the death of the creator and an infringement of its provisions can give rise to legal action.
5. The Rights to be cleared cover:
  • The Rights of composers and arrangers
  • The recording from which a sound track is made
  • The performer(s)
  • The public performance
6. It is an offence:
  • To make a recording of Copyright music, even if that recording is not played back
  • To record, or copy, any recording without the consent of the maker and or performer(s)
  • To play or reproduce Copyright music in public without the appropriate permissions

Any group of persons including neighbours and friends outside the family circle have been held by the Courts to be PUBLIC.



Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS)
British Phonographic Industry (BPI)
Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL)


  • IAC Members and IAC Affiliated Clubs.
  • Members of the Royal Photographic Society (MCPS and BPI only)
  • The Scottish Association of Movie Makers (MCPS and BPI only)
  • The Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (MCPS and BPI only)

A licence in a club’s name applies only to productions made by the club nominated. It does not cover productions made by individual members on their own behalf. Similarly, licences in the name of an individual clear that person’s work only.


The IAC Copyright Clearance Schemes offer licences which cover the use of :

- this being music which has been specially composed and recorded for use by the Radio, Film and Television industries

- recordings purchased through normal retail channels in the United Kingdom including paid-for downloads.

If recordings were purchased abroad then contact MCPS to ascertain that they have been registered in the UK. You will then know if they are covered by our IAC licences or, if not, then where the Copyright may be held.


MCPS protects the Rights of the Composer and permits the licensee to record (dub) musical works owned by its members which have previously been released as a sound recording on condition that the recordings are privately used only:
a) For exhibition to friends and relations in private
b) On amateur movie, photographic or video club premises where admission is free or where a charge is made for club funds
c) For public exhibition when such is promoted for the raising of club funds or for bone fide charitable causes
d) For not more than TWO public exhibitions held annually in addition to those in (a) and (b) above
e) For exhibition at annual amateur movie, photographic or video festivals attended by competitors and friends
f) Exhibition to judges in amateur film, photographic or video competitions
g) For inclusion, as clips and short videos, in YouTube - provided there is no financial gain and no commercial advertising is attached. Such clips may be "embedded" in IAC and club websites so long as they are hosted by YouTube.

The licence clears FOR ALL TIME dubbings made within the twelve months of the licence


In normal circumstances the record companies do not permit their commercial products to be re-recorded or dubbed. The BPI licence issued by IAC on their behalf permits the copying of recordings made by leading manufacturers. The BPI licence permits an unlimited number of copies of recordings to be made within the conditions of the licence during one year from its date of issue.

It should be noted that Copyright in the recording is separate from any other Copyright attached to the material recorded. Even if the material is free from any other Copyright the RECORDING itself is Copyright to the recordist or the record manufacturer.

The BPI licence covers the RECORDING PROCESS of all recordings made by leading manufacturers and its conditions are as follows:

a) The original recording used by the licensee must be his/her personal property and purchased through regular retail channels
b) The names of all instrumental groups, bands, orchestras, choruses, solo artists and/or performers shall NOT be identified in subtitles or credits etc.
c) All other Copyrights e.g. Composer, Performer, shall be cleared before the recordings are copied or dubbed
d) That no copies of the sound tracks on which the recordings reside be used for any other purposes whatsoever.

– available only to IAC Members

In addition to the BPI licence, a licence is necessary for the REPRODUCTION IN PUBLIC of sound tracks created from commercial recordings.

The PPL licence also covers the live use of recordings played as background during the entrance and exits of audiences and during intervals as an accompaniment to film, video and audio visual presentations that may not have a pre-recorded soundtrack.

The licence does not cover requirements which may be imposed by local authorities.

(Performer's Rights)

Performers Rights are administered by the Musicians’ Union.

Under the provisions of the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 the consent of the performers is necessary in relation to the exploitation of their performances including recorded performances.

This is in addition to all clearances and consents that have to be obtained with regard to Composer and Recording Rights.

As from August 2005 it is no longer necessary for IAC members to apply to the Musicians’ Union for performers consent for each incorporation of a sound recording into a project, provided all that is intended with that project is private use and/or exhibition to a non-paying audience.

However, commercial exploitation will still require the prior consent of the Union

In such cases, or if you have any queries, please contact the Media Department of the Musicians’ Union on 020 7840 5556

Outside the scheme

10. The Performing Rights Society (PRS) issues licences covering commercial premises
in which Copyright music is played. These are quite separate from the Copyright
clearance licences issued through the IAC.
(Contact: PRS, Copyright House, 29-33 Berners St, London W1T 3AB)
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11. Church Services - Weddings etc
Any music that you video-record may be in copyright. This means that you need specific licences for using it and for giving away or selling copies. The key British music industry bodies have established a Limited Manufature Licence which considerably simplifies the licensing. Details can be found on the PRSforMUSIC website. The licences are bought online which makes the process very quick.

Current costs of the MCPS, BPI and PPL licences for IAC members are less than £8.00 per annum!
All applications for licences should be addressed to:
IAC, McCracken Park, Great North Road, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 2DT
Download application form here

Most of this information is UK-specific. Laws and customs may be different in other countries. Any copyright owner can refuse permission without explanation. This can happen, for example, if the managers of an artist think a film brings the artist into disrepute.

Pictures on this page come from Stock.XCHNG - top by Gabriel Doyle, bottom by Joshua Tan.