Music is protected by copyright

Music is protected by the Danish Copyright Act. Except in cases were you just quote from a musical work, you will need permission before using music for e-learning purposes. Normally your educational institution would need an agreement with KODA.

What music is protected under the Danish Copyright Act?

The Danish Copyright Act protects:

  • Compositions, that is, songs, orchestral work, psalms etc.
  • Adaptations of music, for example new versions of a song, arrangements, orchestrations etc.
  • Creative artists who perform music. In that way you protect, for example, the way musicians, singers, and conductors play, sing and conduct, respectively.
  • Recordings of music that is, CDs, LPs, cassettes etc.

You protect music in the form of sheet music as well music in the form of audio recordings.

How long does copyright protection last?

The copyright protection of compositions and adaptations lasts until 70 years after the year of death of the creator, or, if there is more than one creator, the year of death of the one who lived longest.

The copyright protection of the performances of creative artists normally lasts until 70 years after the year the performance took place. See section 65 of the Danish Copyright Act.

The copyright protection of audio recordings normally lasts until 70 years after the time the music was recorded. See section 66 of the Danish Copyright Act.

What does copyright protection imply?

The fact that music is protected by copyright means, among other things, that you are not allowed to publish the music on a digital network without the permission of the copyright holders. Therefore you are generally not allowed to use music in e-learning without prior permission.

Who do you need permission from?

Creators of musical works often have agreements with others who grant the persons in question a share of the copyright ownership, for example music publishing houses, record companies etc. Consequently there is often a bewildering multitude of rights to musical work.

Fortunately musical copyright is administered by a number of organisations collaborating in various ways.

If you want to play music as part of your e-learning, you can enter into an agreement and pay some money to the KODA organisation. KODA will then take care of all the legal matters and ensure that everyone gets paid. It couldn’t be easier.

KODA is planning to pass on the use of music for e-learning purposes to Copydan, but at the moment KODA is still in charge of this.

If you want to use sheet music in your e-learning material, you must follow the rules and regulations that govern the use of texts in e-learning.

What about music that you hold the copyright to?

Of course you can use that for e-learning purposes. Nevertheless, if you are a KODA member, your educational institution will need a KODA agreement if you want to use your music for e-learning purposes. That is because KODA members entrust the administration of all their music to the organisation. If you are a KODA member but have uploaded your music to the Internet for free under a Creative Commons licence, you can use the music for teaching purposes without any payment to KODA. Contact KODA for further advice. See below for more information about Creative Commons.

I’m just going to place the music on a closed group forum. Surely that is OK?

No, it is not. If the material you are going to use for e-learning purposes is copyright protected, you can only use it under the terms and conditions mentioned above. Those are the rules, no matter if you upload the music to the Internet or an intranet.

Can you ever use music without permission?

You can use music without permission as follows:

  • If the music is so old that its copyright has expired. As copyright lasts for so long, this will typically not be that relevant.
  • You are allowed to use quotations, that is, borrow a small part of a published work of music and use it in your own e-learning material. It is only a quotation if you what you borrow has just a limited extent in the work you are quoting from as well as in your the e-learning material. When using quotations, you must clearly cite the name and source, and the quoted passage must be clearly indicated along with where it starts and where it ends.

Music on the Danish education portal, EMU, and other online services

Sometimes your educational institution may already have permission, for example because it has an agreement with an online service offering users the use of protected work for e-learning purposes, for example In this case the online service has ensured the necessary licences so that the users can use the music for e-learning purposes. This does not mean that you can use copyright protected music without permission. On the contrary, it means that others have actually been granted the permission.

In some cases the creator may have partially waived his or her rights

Some creators allow others to use their music without asking. For example, if a creator publishes a piece of music on the Internet and announces that others are free to use it for non-commercial purposes, you can use it in e-learning without permission.

Some creators publish their music on the Internet under a Creative Commons licence which is a disclaimer of rights to the effect that you can use the music without asking, subject to certain terms and conditions which you can read more about at

Read more about Creative Commons in Ophavsret for begyndere – a beginner’s guide to copyright, chapter 7, section J. Also see the article on Creative Commons here at

Is it legal to link to copyrighted music in e-learning material?

You can read more about linking here at

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