Licensing FAQs

General information

Copyright law allows creators to own and protect their music (their intellectual property or IP) and then control how it is used.

Any use of someone else’s intellectual property without permission is theft. Infringing copyright law could result in potentially costly legal action from copyright holders or their representatives and you may be asked to destroy or remove any infringing product (physical or digital) from public access.

Permission may be given through a licence, which will outline the terms of use and any fee you may need to pay.

In the UK, copyright lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the composer/songwriter or author dies. Works which are no longer in copyright are referred to as ‘copyright free’ or ‘public domain’.

However, different countries have different copyright terms, meaning a work could be public domain in one country, but its use is controlled in another.

Always contact the rightsowner(s) if you are unsure if a work or product is protected.

Yes.  However, new arrangements and editions of public domain works are themselves protected by copyright law.

All our sheet music displays a copyright credit at the bottom of the first page of each piece or song. Look for the © copyright symbol followed by the rightsowner name and credit details. If the music references someone other than ABRSM, this work does not belong to us.

Much of the music we use in our publications (including excerpts in our Music Theory books and resources) does not belong to us. To use music owned by someone other than ABRSM (even though it appears in our books), you must contact them for permission.

Your local music rights organisation is a good source of further information. In the UK this is PRS for Music but there is an equivalent organisation in almost every country and you can find details of these on the PRS website here: Societies

You will need to contact the rightsowner(s) – most have websites and contact forms. To contact us, select the relevant link on this page. 

Some pieces of music are written by more than one person and each may be represented by a different rightsowner. A rightsowner may also only control certain rights in specific territories. Depending on how you want to use a piece of music, you may need to contact more than one licensor.

This depends on what you want to do. Each music publisher or composer will set their own fees and terms.

Please complete a request form and our copyright team will contact you as soon as possible with more information. 

The terms of any permission will be detailed in your licence. Usually permission is granted on a one or two-year term, after which you would need to ask to extend your agreement.

Yes. You must ask the rightsowner(s) for permission even if you are giving the product away for free or it is being made for charity.

Generally, yes. Using any protected work, however brief, must be done with permission. However, depending on the use, fair dealing exceptions may apply. Find out more.

No. While it is always a good habit to credit the original creators and rightsowner(s) in your product, only a licence can provide you with permission to use their copyright assets. 

You generally need our permission to reproduce any aspect of our publications in physical or digital formats. Imagery and music settings in our publications are © copyright ABRSM, although some of the images and pieces of music we include in our books do not belong to us so we are unable to provide any permission for their use. Find out more. 

To understand more about music licensing generally we recommend the following websites:

Copyright exceptions and fair dealing

UK copyright law specifies a number of exceptions that allow limited use of copyright works without needing permission from the rightsowner. Fair dealing principles can further extend what is permitted.

You can find information about exceptions to copyright at:

You can find information about fair dealing at:

If you are unsure whether you need permission, always ask the rightsowner(s) before going ahead with your project. 

Teachers and schools

The following organisations run collective licensing schemes, which provide generous licensing solutions to using copyright music in schools:

  • Printed Music Licensing Ltd (PMLL) for copying printed music in schools, music services and places of higher education
  • The Centre for Education and Finance Management (CEFM) for the performance of music (live and recorded) in schools

Contact them to check if your activity is covered.

To support teachers and learners, we allow the digital display of our sheet music and theory publications in live online one-to-one lessons. You must not record these lessons for on-demand access and we expect both the teacher and the student to own copies of the music being used If your use extends beyond this concession or any other accessible collective licensing scheme, you may require our permission. Find out more. 

If you are a teacher in a UK school or music service uploading filmed performances to a secure distance learning network, it is likely that this is permitted under your organisation’s collective rights licence(s).

While private music teachers are unlikely to be able to access the same generous collective licensing schemes, fair dealing principles, if applicable, can further extend what is permitted without the need for a licence.  Generally speaking, your use must be:

  • instructional in intent;
  • ‘fair and reasonable’. It is recommended you use only what is absolutely necessary. 5% of a work is generally regarded as fair and reasonable;
  • given appropriate acknowledgement – composer, title, rightsowner; and
  • not for commercial purposes.

The reproduction in any medium of a complete musical work for on-demand access would require permission – fair dealing principles would not apply. 

You can read more about fair dealing at:

Find out more about audio visual licensing

Music Theory

All Music Theory exam syllabuses and publications are © copyright ABRSM. You need our permission to copy and distribute these in any media. Find out more.

Yes. All aspects of our Music Theory syllabuses are © copyright ABRSM. Find out more.

No. Our Music Theory exam questions and mark scheme are © copyright ABRSM. This includes the exact wording we use in online exams and exam papers. Live and practice exam papers are highly regulated and we cannot license these assessment materials to third parties, for reasons of quality control.


Yes. All parts of our instrumental, singing and Music Theory exam syllabuses are protected by copyright and you will need our permission to reproduce them. This includes displaying our repertoire lists or using any of our syllabus components in a product or service.

You may also need other additional direct or collective licences from rightsowners, who may or may not be ABRSM.

Find out more about syllabus licensing.

Audio recording

Yes, if the work is in copyright. Find out more.

You can find information about this on our audio recording page.

Reputable streaming providers (YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify) will ensure the communication of copyright repertoire from their service is correctly licensed.  However, take care to read the platform’s terms and conditions, which may be personal and non-commercial. If you are unsure about your licensing obligations or need advice, contact:

You must request our permission if you are using the groupings of musical works in our exam syllabuses (for example, repertoire lists A, B and C). Find out more.

Audio-visual (film)

Yes, if the work is in copyright. Find out more. 

You can find information about this on our audio-visual page

Remember, some of the music we include in our books does not belong to us.  You may need to contact other publishers to ask their permission too.

You must contact us for permission if your webinar includes pre-recorded films containing our copyright music, or you record a webinar containing live performances of our copyright music for future viewing on demand.  Find out more

You can find information about this on our audio-visual page.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By using our website, you are agreeing to our cookie policy and consent to our use of cookies. Find out more.