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Music and Copyright

Musical works are one of the protected categories of copyright. It is important to understand that the underlying composition is a separate work from the sound recording of that composition. When you hear a song on Spotify or over the radio, you are hearing the composition and lyrics as well as the sound recording of the composition and lyrics. For example, the song "I Will Always Love You," as made famous by Whitney Houston from the 1980's film The Bodyguard, was actually written by Dolly Parton. The recording of the song by Whitney Houston is a separate work from the underlying composition written by Dolly Parton. Both the composition and the sound recording are protected by copyright. Generally, music publishers own or administer rights for musical compositions and record labels own sound recordings. There are different types of music licenses for different uses of music. For help obtaining permission to use music in a project, please see our Clearance Website.