Can I photocopy printed music?


If you wish to copy music which is still in copyright, whether by means of photocopying or otherwise, you may only do so with the prior permission of the copyright owners, with certain limited exceptions. There are a number of reasons why it is important to respect the rights of copyright owners and to seek permission before copying music:

  • An illegal copy deprives the composer of the music of the chance to earn income from his/her creative work
  • The publisher is deprived of the opportunity to recoup the investment made in the production of the printed edition
  • The publisher is unable to monitor the use and popularity of a particular edition.

Consequences of illicit copying

Illicit copying is akin to theft, which damages composers and publishers. It discourages composers, who may be forced to look for other ways of earning a living. It deters publishers from investing in new writing talent and the production of printed music and it denies them information about the use of music which would guide further investment decisions. A publisher may allow a work to go out of print believing that there is a lack of demand for that particular work when the opposite may, in fact, be true.

Limited exceptions

In certain cases, limited copying is allowed, for example for the purposes of private research and study and for use in examinations (other than those involving instrumental performance). Mindful of the relative complexity of copyright legislation as far as performers and teachers are concerned, the MPA has developed a Code of Fair Practice in agreement with composers and users of printed music. This makes certain concessions to users of music over and above the exceptions in the legislation on behalf of publisher members of the MPA.

Seeking permission

For permission to photocopy printed music, the MPA can help to direct you to the copyright owners. You should provide as much information about the music as possible, including the title, composer, any arranger or editor, the name of any publisher that you have the edition for and the date of publication or copyright line (usually inside the front cover or at the bottom of the first page of the music). Email us at

Printed Music Licensing Limited

Printed Music Licensing Limited (PMLL) is owned by the MPA. It currently offers one licensing scheme the Schools Printed Music Licence (SPML). This licence allows teachers within schools to make photocopies of sheet music. An original copy of the music must be owned and copies can only be made for the number of students based in a class. Publishers who are members of PMLL have mandated their rights to allow the photocopying of their works.

To find out more about the SPML or to become a member of PMLL please see click here or contact

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