Classical Music on Hold Copyright

Question: Could you tell me if classical music on hold is subject to copyright. Can I use it freely without problems?

The simple answer to this is maybe

Generally speaking all classical music dating from the 18th Century – Beethoven, Mozart etc is free from copyright as the writer has been dead for 70 years or more (i.e. they died before 1946). Vivaldi (the 4 seasons is the most played piece of call centre music) died in 1741.


The record company that arranged and paid for the recording to be made still has copyright for 50 years from the date of release. If you can find a record published before 1954 you should be able to play this without fear of copyright. It will probably involve digging around a number of second hand music shops top find an old 78 rpm record like this – and it may be subject to scratches.

Here is an extract from the UK Patent office.

How long does UK copyright last? Copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (including a photograph) lasts until 70 years after the death of the author. The duration of copyright in a film is 70 years after the death of the last to survive of the principal director, the authors of the screenplay and dialogue, and the composer of any music specially created for the film. Sound recordings are generally protected for 50 years from the year of publication. Broadcasts are protected for 50 years and published editions are protected for 25 years.

For copyright works created outside the UK or another country of the European Economic Area, the term of protection may be shorter. There may also be differences for works created before 1 January 1996.


Published On: 2nd May 2005 - Last modified: 22nd Mar 2017
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