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. As music is part of the national curriculum, it is unlikely a school does not use printed music at some stage. The licence is not compulsory – a school can continue to seek permission from the particular music publisher directly every time they wish to copy an item of printed music. It is, however, widely accepted that a blanket licence saves time and money for the majority of schools.

The SPML is only available to schools providing general education to pupils aged between 4 and 19. 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.

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, not 10 pages from a 100-page anthology).Examples 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

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.

  • 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.  Schools wishing to copy material on this list can only do so with the express permission of the publisher.

Changes of key or simple changes of instrumentation, to make the musical work performable for the instrumental or vocal resources available.

Arrangements that transform the nature of the work are not allowed.  They 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 and teachers employed by the local Music Service or Hub.

PMLL has central deals with the Department for Education (England), Scottish Government and Education Authority (Northern Ireland).

All schools and academies in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have a SPML

In Wales there is no central agreement and schools are licensed through a Local Authority or on a school by school basis.  To find out if your school is covered please contact CEFM.  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. If you are unsure if your school has a licence please contact CEFM.

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

Copies can be used only by School Members – defined as “A pupil or member of staff of a School”.

The licence does not cover the making of the recordings themselves. That requires a licence from PRS for Music. 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.

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 pupils?”

Only if they have been organised by the school and are part of school activities.

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 schools itself.

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. Information about the printed music a school used to be collected by CLA as part of the annual survey of over 700 schools.  From 1 April 2021, Abigail D’Amore will be operating a data collection strategy for schools.  This will be supported by a portal which will allow teachers to quickly and easily submit data.  The portal will also allow access to resources which can be unlocked once data has been submitted.

Any school can submit data about works that are used under the licence.  It is really important that PMLL has a record of what works have been copied and arranged under the licence in order to be able to pay the right people.  The monies that we collect in licence fees are then distributed to our publisher members who in turn pay the writers and composer of the music.  By reporting what you are using it means that songwriters and composers are being fairly recompensed for the use of their works.

The monies that PMLL receives in licence fees is distributed to publishers for them to share with the composers, songwriters, editors and arrangers of the publications copied.  At present PMLL does not have enough data to distribute all SPML fees on data but a proportion of fees is distributed on this basis.  As we receive greater levels of data we hope to increase this over the next few years.

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 and copies made under the licence cannot be shared between schools.

On 1 April 2020, a trial licence was launched for Music Services to cover such activities.

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 copyrightandschools.org

If publishers are to continue producing high quality materials at a reasonable price for this market, it is important that pupils continue to buy their own copies when taking part in this activity.

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. In order to make copies of these you would need to obtain a licence form the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency).

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%.