Using music in the classroom


Musical works include both a musical composition and lyrics.

  • A composer and a lyricist may own copyright in their separate contributions to the work
  • The term of copyright is the life of the composer or lyricist + 50 years

Sound Recordings means a recording, fixed in any material form, consisting of sounds, whether or not it is a performance of a work. 

The term of copyright for sound recordings (Copyright Act s. 23 (1.1)):

  • For unpublished sound recordings, copyright expires 50 years after the first recording was made.
  • If the sound recording is published  before the copyright in the recording expires, the copyright extends for an additional 70 years after the date of publication (Copyright Act s. 19.1).
  • Total copyright term for sound recordings cannot exceed 100 years.

Can I play music in the classroom?

The University's Fair Dealing Guidelines (see "Musical Works and Sound Recordings" on p.28) allow faculty to perform a musical work or sound recording for an audience consisting primarily of students as long as the work is a legal copy. A legal copy may include:

What about using music purchased through iTunes? Can I log into my iTunes account to play music in class?

When you sign up for an iTunes account, you sign a license agreeing to only use the material for private use. For this reason, you should not use these services to play music in class, or distribute it to students.

Can I make a copy of the sound recording and post it in CourseSpaces?

Under the Fair Dealing Guidelines , you may make a copy of a short excerpt (up to 10%) of a copyright-protected sound recording or audiovisual work and distribute the short excerpt for research, education, private study, criticism and/or review purposes. You may also copy or distribute a short excerpt (up to 10%) of a musical work in the form of sheet music, or an entire musical work if it appears in a book containing other musical works. These materials may be distributed via a classroom presentation or in Coursespaces or by emailing the excerpt to students

However, there are specific conditions that need to be met before posting to CourseSpaces:

  1. A citation to the work must be provided (author/performer, title, year, publisher/producer),
  2. Work on the Internet site must not be protected by any technical protection measures that restrict access,
  3. There are no clearly visible notices prohibiting the use of the work, and
  4. The work has not been posted without the consent of the copyright holder/author.

For music use outside the classroom, please see our music at campus events page.

Please contact the Music and Media librarian for further assistance.



Should you have any questions please contact the Copyright Office.

The Copyright Office makes every effort to provide accurate information but does not offer it as counsel or legal advice.