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Music copyright made simple

2nd February 2021

When the pandemic forced much of the world into lockdown early last year, there were many repercussions for music-making, and with it, the licensing of printed music. With almost all musical activities moving online since March, teachers, ensembles, and musicians have been faced with the challenge of sharing pieces digitally, making copies of physical scores, or even experimenting with creating arrangements better suited to Zoom.

Ahead of our Licensing Q&A Webinar on 24th February*, Viki Smith, PMLL General Manager, discusses how Printed Music Licensing Limited adapted to these challenges after launching the Music Service Licence in April by extending the licence to ensure access to music even whilst learning remotely.

*This webinar has now passed and a recording of the session is available to access here.

Music-making, Licensing, and the Pandemic

Even without the added challenges of the pandemic, the world of copyright can be a very complex and confusing place.  There are many different licences or permissions needed for the many activities that take place within schools and music services.

Printed Music Licensing Limited (PMLL) provides a simple licence to allow teachers to photocopy and arrange all genres of music as part of a lesson.  Before a licence was introduced, teachers would need to contact publishers individually for permission to copy or arrange music.  The majority of schools within the UK now hold a Schools Printed Music Licence (SPML).  This means that teachers do not need to worry about copyright when using sheet music within lessons.

PMLL is continuously working to ensure that licences support music education and current teaching practices.  Following input from the education sector, a gap in licensing was identified for activities that were organised by Music Services that fell outside the school’s licence.  Teachers employed by Music services who were using music within schools were covered by the SPML, but not covered for other separate activities that were organised by a music service.

On 1 April 2020, PMLL launched a trial licence for Music Services.  Copies and arrangements of sheet music can be used under this licence by staff as part of ‘area activities’.  Area activities include individual and small group vocal or instrumental teaching and small or large music ensembles over and above the Collective Educational Provision of the school or schools on whose behalf it is being provided limited to educational non-commercial activities.

The Music Service Licence allows:

  • copying of whole works.
  • copying of 10% (by number of items) of individual pieces of music in a published Anthology or multi-movement vocal score (by number of pages).
  • arrangements of works.
  • uploading of copied music to a password protected VLE or similar secure network.

The last year has been very difficult for everyone, but particularly for teachers and pupils as schools have been closed for a large proportion of the year and teaching has had to move from face-to-face to remote.  Teachers have had to change the way lessons are delivered and ensure that all pupils are supported when learning remotely.

Both the SPML and Music Service licence allow the scanning of music and uploading to a VLE or similar secure network for offsite access.  This allows students to continue to study music even while they are at home.  We were made aware early in the pandemic last year that teachers were struggling to continue music lessons because there was no facility in place to allow access to music offsite, as this had not been necessary before the closure of schools.  We therefore added a temporary extension to the licence to allow copies of music to be shared via email or file sharing software such as Dropbox.  This temporary extension was introduced to ensure that all teachers and students were able to access music remotely.

Music has long been thought to promote wellbeing amongst students and in these uncertain times it is essential that music is accessible to all who need it.  PMLL will continue to support music education through licences and promote the benefits of a varied music curriculum.


On 24th February, Viki Smith, General Manager of Printed Music Licensing Limited, and Abigail D’Amore led an informative webinar covering the Music Service Licence and the School’s Printed Music Licence. After a brief overview of the licences, how they work and the reporting requirements, questions were taken from the webinar attendees.

A recording of this webinar and the accompanying presentation slides are available to access here.

To find out more about registering your organisation for the Music Service Licence, you will find all the information you need here.