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Music And Sound In The Classroom

Both published and unpublished sheet music and sound recordings are subject to copyright protection. For the purposes of class instruction, faculty can rely on the principles of fair dealing, educational exceptions, licenced resources, and material in the public domain to deliver music and sound content to their students.

Fair Dealing

According to the principles of fair dealing, instructors and faculty are free to communicate short excerpts of musical works or sound recordings via lecture presentation, handout, e-mail communication, and/or D2L.

Short Excerpts

Examples of short excerpts from Universities Canada Fair Dealing Guidelines include:

  • up to 10% of a copyright-protected work (including a literary work, musical score, sound recording, and an audiovisual work)
  • an entire single poem or musical score from a copyright-protected work containing other poems or musical scores

For more details on fair dealing analysis, visit UNB’s Fair Dealing page or contact

Educational Exceptions

The educational exceptions to the Copyright Act enable instructors to display or perform entire copyrighted works, such as sound and radio recordings, for educational purposes to an audience consisting primarily of students.

Moreover, the educational internet use exception permits the copying or communicating of an entire work from the web (provided you identify the original source and utilize a legal copy that does not contravene digital locks or any notices prohibiting the use of the work).

Furthermore, the mash-up exception to copyright allows instructors and students to create, for non-commercial uses, new works using copyrighted content (provided the original author is identified, a legal copy of the original is utilized, and the new work does not have a significant adverse effect on the original).

Terms of Use and Legal Notices

Always check the "terms of use" and "legal notices" associated with audio works (most apparent in audio works sourced online). These terms and notices constitute a licence agreement that outlines the details of how and when a work may be used. Keep in mind that limitations set out in a licence agreement take precedence over the Fair Dealing Policy.

Digital Locks

Some copyright holders use digital locks to restrict access to copyright-protected works and/or to limit the use that can be made of such works. The Copyright Act prohibits the circumvention of digital locks to obtain access to copyright-protected works. The Fair Dealing Policy does not permit the circumvention of digital locks to obtain access to copyright-protected works. In order to access content behind a digital lock it is necessary to obtain the permission of the copyright holder.

For more information on music and sound resources for the classroom see the UNB Libraries' Guide to Music.

Public Domain and Open licences for Music

Public domain is the term used for materials that are no longer covered by copyright law. The Canadian Copyright Act limits the term of copyright to the life of the author or creator plus fifty years. After the term of copyright expires, the work becomes public domain. This means materials in the public domain may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the copyright owner.

If you are looking for copyright-free music, where you need not worry about permission or restrictions on copying, check out the following:


For non-educational uses of music and sound, or uses that exceed the parameter of fair dealing and educational exceptions, consult the licences available through The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada and The Canadian Musical Reproductions Rights Agency or contact

To learn more about copyright in music and education please consult the Universities Canada Fair Dealing Guidelines for Universities to Musical Works and Sound Recordings.