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Copyright and Intellectual Property: Home & FAQ

This guide includes Berklee's Intellectual Property Policy along with tutorials, answers to frequently asked questions, and more resources on music copyright.

William and Mary Videos

Music Copyright video series by William & Mary Libraries


Reposted with permission under CC-BY-4.0 license except music by Hark licensed to Videoscribe.


Part 1: Music Copyright Overview Part 2: Musical Contributions Part 3: Sound Recording Copyright

Frequently Asked Questions

I cowrote a song with some of my classmates. Who owns the copyright on the song?
You and your cowriters are the joint authors of this musical work, although Berklee may use the work for noncommercial purposes in the classroom or for purposes of promoting its programs. We advise all student co-creators to draw up private contractual arrangements (e.g., percentage splits for songwriters), as is common practice in the music industry. Berklee does not provide legal advice in the drawing up of contracts.
A faculty member cowrote a song with me. Who owns the copyright?
As an enrolled student at Berklee, you own the copyright to all of your work, even if faculty members have helped you to create the work.  The limited exception to this rule is if you and the faculty member have agreed to written “objectively fair” terms concerning copyright ownership.
I made a sound recording in a Berklee studio. Who owns the master recording?

You jointly own the sound recording with any other students who participated, and you are free to distribute and monetize it. Berklee may use the work for noncommercial purposes freely in promotional materials, in the classroom, or for purposes of promoting its programs.

In connection with my studies at Berklee, I want to make a recording that uses a sample of another student’s work. Do I have to ask anyone’s permission?

No, you do not need permission as long as you are using the work for noncommercial purposes within the "Berklee Commons." Unlike commercial recordings (for which you need to get permission to sample audio), your creative work is protected by the Berklee Commons for the duration of your enrollment, meaning that you can use this audio in your work.


However, in the spirit of professional courtesy, we recommend that you notify and credit that original work and creator.

One of my songs appeared on the Berklee YouTube channel. Will I receive royalties?

Yes, assuming that you have registered your song with a performing rights organization (PRO) such as ASCAP or BMI, and subject to YouTube policies. Berklee is not responsible for registering students’ work with PROs.

I write my own music, and have performed my songs/compositions at Berklee or played recordings of my music at work. Do I own the copyright?
Yes. Berklee makes no claims to own the copyright to faculty songs or compositions unless Berklee has specifically commissioned the work, in which case you will receive a separate contract for this.
I presented an academic research paper at a conference, which was funded by Berklee. I’ve been asked by a publisher to write a book chapter about this research. Do I have to ask permission?
No, you do not, unless the research paper was required as part of your day-to-day duties or was otherwise specifically commissioned by Berklee. If the research was undertaken independently, you own the copyright to this academic research and can publish it freely or enter into a contract with the publisher.
I cowrote a song with a student, which became commercially successful after the student graduated. Who owns the copyright?
The student owns the copyright because the song was cowritten while they were enrolled at Berklee. There is a limited exception to this rule if the student and the faculty member have agreed to written “objectively fair” terms concerning copyright ownership.
I use my own compositions in my teaching. I’ve uploaded some of the audio to the Learning Management System. Does Berklee own the composition?
No. Faculty members own the rights to their own compositions, unless the compositions were commissioned by Berklee, in which case you will have a separate contract to this effect.
I wrote a course for Berklee. Can others teach my course?
Yes, they can if they use the same general topics, syllabus, exam questions, and related essential materials (these are called “Essential Course Materials” in the policy and are considered work for hire).
I have developed some materials to teach particular parts of the course. These are personal, unique contributions that reflect my specific experience and voice. Who owns these materials?
These are called “Personal Expression Materials” in the policy. You own the copyright to Personal Expression Materials, and other faculty members (and Berklee) need your permission to reuse those materials.  
I wrote a book for Berklee Press outside of my day-to-day duties for Berklee. I use this book in my teaching. Who owns the copyright to this book?
Your contract with the Berklee Press will determine the specifics of rights ownership. You will receive payments subject to the specifics of your contract.
I’ve authored a course for Berklee Online. Do I receive payment/royalties?
Yes. Work for Berklee Online is commissioned by Berklee, and separate contracts are in effect for this work. You will receive payments subject to the specifics of your contract.
I sometimes play student recordings/songs in class as examples. Is this allowed?
Yes. The Berklee Commons allows faculty to use student-generated materials freely in the promotion of student learning.
I wrote a research paper that I presented at a conference. Do I own the copyright, and can I publish the paper?
If your job does not require research, or if the research was undertaken at your own initiative outside of your regular duties, you own the copyright. If the research was commissioned by Berklee or was part of your normal duties, then the copyright is owned by Berklee.
I wrote a song/composition with a work colleague. Does Berklee own the copyright to this song?
No, Berklee doesn't own the copyright unless the work was specifically commissioned by Berklee, in which case you will receive a contract outlining the ownership of the work.