General information

How do I find out whether there is a copyright on a musical work?

You can assume that music that you buy in the store is copyrighted protected. The chances are high that the author is affiliated with an organisation such as Buma/Stemra.

When is a work royalty-free?

Music is royalty-free when the last surviving author (composer, lyricist or arranger) died seventy or more years ago. Works that are royalty-free are also referred to as ‘traditionals’ or ‘domaine public’.

If I have music especially composed for my production, do I become the owner of the music?

No. The rights to the music remain the property of the composer. They will usually transfer the exploitation of their rights to a copyright organisation such as Buma/Stemra. You must obtain permission from the organisation for any reproduction.

I want to make use of a protected musical work. But who holds/owns the copyright?

You can first of all contact Buma/Stemra. We represent the interests of nearly 24,000 music authors and publishers (rightholders) and can determine who owns the copyright. This does not mean we can manage all the copyright matters for you. In any case, we can inform you who the rightholding lyricist, composer and/or publisher is. Please contact Member Services about this.

Is a work protected by copyright if it has not been recorded, for example, on a tape/recording tape/media?

​Yes. The recording of a creation is not a requirement. This means, for example, that performances that have not been written down or musical improvisations that have not been recorded on tape are protected as soon as they are performed live. The precondition is that the work is original and can (could) be perceived by the senses.

Can there be a copyright on a work that has not yet been finished?

There is a copyright even if a work has not been finished. Works are protected at all stages, as long as the requirements of originality and observability are met. As long as a melody or lyrics are still in someone’s head and can therefore not yet be perceived by the senses of others, they are not protected.

Who receives the copyright to a work in which various works from different authors are brought together?

The rightholder is the person under whose direction and supervision the entire work, such as a magazine, is created. Each author keeps his rights to his own work separately in this entity.