The Catholic University of America

Copyright and Music

This page was written by the CUA Office of General Counsel to address concerns members of the CUA community might have regarding issues of copyright as it applies to printed and recorded music. This page is informational in nature; questions about a specific situation should be referred to the CUA Office of General Counsel.


  • Sheet music of a complete work must always be purchased except for emergency situations, e.g. the performance is imminent and the purchased copy cannot be located. The photocopy must be replaced by a purchased copy without delay.

  • A single copy of a sound recording of copyrighted music may be made from recordings owned by the university or teacher for classroom or reserve room use.

  • The original copyright notice must be placed on the copy, or, if no notice appeared, a statement that the work may be protected under copyright law.

  • Most popular music on the web in the MP3 format is not there legally, and copying same would be a copyright violation. Check to see if the web site explicitly grants copyright permission. If not, assume the material is protected by copyright.

  • Separate copyright exists in original works of music, and in the sound recordings of those musical works. Thus, Beethoven's 9th symphony may be in the public domain, but a recording of the symphony by the London Philharmonic is probably not in the pubic domain.

  • Generally, copyright guidelines with respect to music require that you purchase a copy for your accompanist rather than make a photocopy of your own.

  • A legally purchased sound recording or audiovisual work may be played in the classroom for educational purposes.

  • The Library may make up to three copies (archival, master and use copies) of an unpublished musical sound recording currently in the Library's collection for the purpose of preservation and security, or for deposit for research use in another library.

  • The Library may make up to three copies of a published musical sound recording for the purpose of replacing a recording that is damaged, lost, deteriorating, or stolen, or if the format of the recording has become obsolete, if the library has determined an unused replacement cannot be obtained at a fair price.

  • A digital format copy must not be made available to the public outside the premises of the library. Any copy sent to another library must be in analog format.

  • For information on music and the public domain, see The CUA music librarian is also available to assist in this area.

  • The Music Library Association has published a statement on the digital transmission of electronic reserves. This document can be found online at

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