Frequently asked questions

Please note that the following information on copyright is intended as a guide only. The information is not a comprehensive statement of the law and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

If you cannot find the answer to your query please contact the SPML office on spml@cefm.co.uk or call us on 01494 836234.

Any school that wants to make copies or arrangements of printed music should apply for the licence. State schools in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland already have a licence paid for by the government departments. The licence is not compulsory – a school can continue to seek permission from the music publisher directly every time they wish to copy an item of printed music. However, having a licence saves time and money for the majority of schools.

The SPML is only available to schools providing general education to student s aged between 4 and 18. It does not cover Saturday music schools, Further Education colleges, 6th Form colleges, Higher Education colleges or specialist music schools held outside normal school hours like Rock School or Stagecoach.

For activities taking place at Music Services/Hubs that are not covered by the SPML a Music Service Licence is available. For more information on the Music Service Licence contact info@musicmark.org.uk

Any printed music publication that the school owns, or pdf it has purchased from a website (as long as it is from a legitimate source).

Entire works can be copied unless it is an:

  • Anthology or large vocal score where there is a limit of 10% on the items that can be copied (ie. one out of 10 pieces, or one out of 10 movements, not 10 pages from a 100-page anthology). Examples of anthologies include Carols for Choirs, Handel’s ‘Messiah’, Karl Jenkins ‘The Armed Man’, Beatles Complete, Hits of the Year.
  • Publications specifically listed on the exclusion list which you can find here.

The SPML does not exist to replace the purchasing of printed music, therefore if you wanted to photocopy more than 10% of an anthology or large vocal score, you should purchase another copy.

Copy can be taken to mean any of the following: photocopying, scanning, notation by hand, printing, digitising a printed original using notation software or scanning, making arrangements, scanning and uploading to a Virtual Learning or school network, or sharing music on a whiteboard.

  • Copies may be used for school purposes only.
  • Copies may not be made for private individual instrumental or vocal teaching.
  • Copies cannot be lent or hired out.
  • Copies may not be used in collective worship. Licences for that purpose are available from Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) (See What’s the difference between the SPML and other licences?).
  • Arrangements must not change the character of the work and they should only be made for the practical purposes of making the work performable by the school’s instrumental and vocal groups.
  • The lyrics may not be changed in any way.
  • Schools should not use the SPML to avoid purchasing printed music under any circumstances.

The scheme covers all printed music sold or distributed in the UK, except specifically excluded publications which are listed here. Schools wishing to copy material on this list can only do so with the express permission of the publisher.

The purpose of the arrangement aspect of the SPML is to help teachers solve a problem with a work that is needed to be performed. Changes of key or simple changes of instrumentation, to make the musical work performable for the instrumental or vocal resources available, is allowed.

However, arrangements that fundamentally transform the nature of the work are not allowed. Individual permission with publishers should be sought if a greater creative expansion of the music is required. You can find out how to contact the publisher of the work you wish to arrange by contacting the Music Publishers Association (info@mpa.org.uk).

Arrangements may only be used by the licensee and not shared with teachers from other schools. Ownership of any Arrangement made under this Licence is automatically assigned to the owner of the Musical Work arranged.

All Arrangements made under the Licence must be annotated with the title of the Musical Work, the name of the composer of the Musical Work, the name of the author of any associated lyrics, the name of the publisher (if known), the name of the arranger, and a note as follows:

“Arrangement made under PMLL Licence for use at (name of School and post code to be inserted here)”

Once a school has a licence, any member of staff can make copies or arrangements for the number of students within a class. An original copy of the music must be owned (including a pdf copy).

Copies can be made by peripatetic music teachers, self-employed music teachers and teachers employed by the local Music Service or Music Education Hub if the copies are being used on the school premises.

If you are a state school in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland you automatically have a Licence because of a central deal the Printed Music Licensing Limited organisation has with the Department for Education (England), Scottish Government and Education Authority (Northern Ireland).

In Wales there is no central agreement and schools are licensed through a Local Authority or on a school by school basis. Licences for schools in Wales are administered by the Centre for Education and Finance Management (CEFM).

Independent Schools in England and Wales are also licensed individually by CEFM.

If you are an independent school, or a state school in Wales, please contact CEFM spml@cefm.co.uk to find out if your school has a licence.

Independent schools in Scotland are covered through a central agreement with Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS). Please contact PMLL (viki.smith@mpagroup.com) to check whether your school is included within this agreement.

Copies can only be used by ‘School Members’. School members are defined by PMLL as ‘A student or member of staff of a school’.

If a professional or visiting musician visiting the school needs to photocopy or arrange a piece of purchased sheet music for use with students in the school, this is permitted. The copies would not be licensed for the musicians’ use away from the school.

The licence does not cover the making of the recordings themselves. If you were recording a performance and transferring this onto e.g. a DVD you would need licence from MCPS. This can be obtained from via CEFM https://cefm.co.uk/licensing/mcps/.

If you are uploading the recording to a social media platform e.g. YouTube this may already be covered by a licence. You should contact PRS for Music to check https://www.prsformusic.com/.

You can use copies made under the licence while making such recordings provided that the recording is being made as part of school activity.

Yes. Copies of music can also be scanned and uploaded onto a VLE or similar secure network.

Copies made under the licence can be used in concerts organised by the school. They may not be used in public performances organised by private individuals or organisations other than the school itself.

Yes, provided the school has organised the concert. See also the answer to “Does the licence cover school concerts and other public performances given by school students?”

Yes, if they have been organised by the school and are part of school activities. If they are organised by a Music Service or Music Education Hub, a Music Services licence may be required.

No. The licence was introduced to reduce the burden for schools. It means they don’t have to contact individual publishers to apply for permission each time they want to copy from a printed publication

Yes. You already have the licence which gives you a range of benefits. You do need to enter data to comply with the terms and conditions of the licence. The process is simple and easy, and helps music creators to get paid! The data collection programme for the SPML is now called Every Copy Counts, and is managed by Abigail D’Amore Associates. Visit the Every Copy Counts website to learn how you can easily and accurately submit your data, or go straight to the PMLL portal.

PMLL collects data on what works have been copied and arranged under the licence in order to be able to pay the right people. Monies collected in licence fees are distributed to publishers members, who in turn pay the composer / songwriter of that music.

The data you enter needs to be accurate and complete to be viable. The Every Copy Counts team is there to help and support you navigate this process. By submitting data, you are playing a vitally important part in the overall ecology of music creation!

The licence covers the activities of an individual school. It does not cover copying for the purposes of taking part in activities organised at Music Hub level involving more than one school. Copies made under the licence cannot be shared between schools. For more information on the Music Services licence please contact Viki Smith at PMLL viki.smith@mpagroup.com or Music Mark (who administer the licence on behalf of PMLL) on info@musicmark.org.uk

Some music publishers may be included in both the CCLI and the SPML repertoires. These are the differences:

  • If the printed music is being copied for use in collective worship, the CCLI Licence is required.
  • If the printed music is being copied for any other school activity, the SPML is required.

General information about the different types of copyright licences that a school may need can be found at https://copyrightandschools.org/

The Licence currently only covers copying and arranging activity in schools, due to the blanket licencing agreements with the Government education departments. As private instrumental and vocal tuition takes place away from schools, it currently is not covered.

We don’t believe so. The licence is designed to cover most of the copying that schools already do. It is also designed so that it is clear what copying is allowed and what copying is not. Schools must own legitimately obtained copies of the music they want to copy. We understand that not every copy results in a lost sale and we want schools to be able to make the best use of the material that they buy. We think that the licence strikes a fair balance.

The licence covers printed music publications which are described as:

“Published editions being graphic representations of Musical Works and/or any associated words or lyrics, printed on paper, including musical scores and/or parts, diagrammatic representations, tablature and other ways of representing musical sound and any editorial notes, historical notes or commentaries or other text included in the said published editions. For the avoidance of doubt this does not include Excluded Printed Music Publications, sound recordings neither does it include publications which are made available digitally and subsequently printed by any person.”

Text books made up primarily of text but containing musical examples are not Printed Music Publications. To make copies of these you would need to obtain a licence from the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency).

Under the terms of the licence photocopies or arrangements should be destroyed at the end of each academic year. However, we understand that schools may wish to keep hold of these for use with a new cohort of students. It is important in this case that you log data on your usage of this music again in the new academic year. The Every Copy Counts team will send out reminders about this each year!

The licence for the majority of schools is paid through a central arrangement with Government. Some schools are licensed through a Local Authority or on an individual basis. When PMLL distributes the revenue to publishers it will make a charge to non-MPA members (PMLL is owned by the MPA) to recover its costs.  The administration charge is currently 10%.