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Copyright guide

Sound recordings

A sound recording, according to the Canadian Copyright Act, includes "a recording fixed in any material form, consisting of sounds, whether or not of a performance of a work, but excluding any soundtrack of a cinematographic work where it accompanies the cinematographic work."

Sound recordings may have multiple copyright protections:

  • Protection of the recording itself (CD, audiocassette) (held by producer of recording)
  • Protection of the performance (held by performers on the recording)
  • Protection of the music/lyrics (held by composers of music/lyrics)
Playing a sound recording in class

Section 29.5 of the Copyright Act allows the playing of a non-infringing sound recording "on the premises of the educational institution for educational or training purposes and not for profit, before an audience consisting primarily of students of the educational institution, instructors acting under the authority of the educational institution or any person who is directly responsible for setting a curriculum for the educational institution."

Audio broadcasts may not be copied and played later in class except under special conditions.

Copying a sound recording that includes a musical work

Copying a sound recording that includes a musical work for individual personal use onto a "blank audio recording medium" as defined by the Copyright Act is permitted. You cannot copy a sound recording for someone else or for any other purpose including selling/renting out, distributing, communicating to others, or performing the recording in public. The Copyright Act has established a system of levy fees on blank media for providing royalty payments to composers, performers and sound recording producers (s.8). In Canada, the Canadian Private Copyright Collective is responsible for collecting and distributing private copying royalties.

Copying a sound recording that does not include a musical work

Aside from the special exceptions for news broadcasts and the fair dealing exceptions discussed further in this document, you cannot generally copy a sound recording that does not include a musical work.

Additional, special exceptions exist for persons with perceptual disabilities for reproducing a sound recording in alternative formats.

Distributing a sound recording

Distributing a sound recording, such as making it digitally available through the internet, making copies for students etc., requires the payment of royalty fees.

The Neighbouring Rights Collective of Canada collects and distributes royalties for distribution and/or broadcasting of sound recordings.

Using clips, modifying/sampling/remixing
  • Musical clips
    Using clips of a musical sound recording generally requires copyright clearance from the copyright holders unless you are engaged in non-commercial user-generated content. In Canada, for musical recordings contact the Canadian Musical Reproductive Rights Agency.
  • Non-musical clips
    Using clips of a sound recording in another work generally requires copyright clearance from the copyright holders unless you are engaged in non-commercial user-generated content.

In addition, some exceptions may apply under the fair dealing provisions.

page last updated on: Thursday 14 September 2017
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