Click here to skip to content

Sound and Moving Image Copying Services

Copying Services can provide copies of recordings held in the collections to users who are either permitted to copy the material under law or are able to obtain the appropriate copyright clearance. This is a charged service and copies can be supplied on a range of up-to-date audio formats. Please ensure you have read through all the information below before submitting an application.


Applications received by the Copying Services without either a signed declaration form or appropriate clearance for permission to copy the material will not be processed.

A. Copyright in sound recordings

The copyright in a sound recording is separate from any copyright in the words or music contained in the recording. Copyright in most sound recordings lasts 70 years after the date it is published, played in public or communicated to the public, whichever is the later.

Where the sound recording is still in copyright applicants will need to obtain written permission from the copyright owner.

However if the usage is for fair dealing non-commercial research and private study purposes upon receipt of a signed declaration form, the Library can provide a “fair” copy.  This is generally interpreted as being  no more than 5% of an in-copyright work

If the BBC are the known rights holder and your request is not covered by an exception to UK copyright law, please contact the BBC Motion Gallery.

B. Copyright in literary, dramatic and musical works

Published literary, dramatic and musical works are in copyright until 70 years after the death of the author(s). If the underlying work in the recording you require is in copyright, you will need to obtain written permission from all the copyright holder(s) before the copy can be made unless covered by a limitation or exception in copyright law e.g. for the purposes of parliamentary or judicial proceedings, or under fair dealing [see Under ‘A’ above].

If you do not know the copyright status of an underlying musical work relating to the composer, MCPS/PRS may be able to help. For literary and dramatic works, please contact the relevant publisher or use the contact details listed on the WATCH file.

C. Copyright in performances

Permission will be required from all performers whose work is recorded within the recording.  In the case of commercially published recordings the record company may be able to assist. In other cases permissions should be obtained direct from the individual performer(s) or organisation.

Permission letter

If your use is not covered by an exception in UK copyright law an acceptable permission letter will take the form of a signed letter or email from the individual/company/organisation representing the owner of the copyright or the rights holder, allowing the British Library to make a copy of the recording on your behalf. The letter must include a statement that the signatory is the owner or authorised representative of the owner of the rights as listed, and that they are authorised to execute the letter of permission. Where required by copyright law, separate permission(s) must be provided in relation to the copyright in the sound recording, the copyright in the work(s), and the rights in the performance(s) .

Please note the British Library is unable to involve itself directly in discussions between copyright holders and potential customers.

Request a recording

For copies of wildlife recordings please use the Wildlife Copying Service.

Orders are subject to a limit of six items (no repeat orders) unless a specific commercial, educational or research project has been named and agreed in advance.

An application form must be submitted listing the sound recordings you require. The PDF form should be downloaded (see link below) and returned to us by mail, fax or as a scanned document. A copy of the form can also be supplied to customers by post if necessary.

It is possible to search for recordings held in the Sound Archive's collection by using the online catalogue. This includes information on three million published and unpublished recordings. You can search for artists, composers, musical works, interviews, recordings of plays and poetry, wildlife sounds, oral history, sound effects, record companies and radio broadcasts. After selecting the recording(s) you would like to have copied, please note the reference call number. The Sound Archive reference call numbers are listed at the top of each entry in brief display (see image below) and under HOLDINGS or LIST RECORDINGS in full display (see image below). This will help us deal with your request more quickly.

Sound Archive catalogue entries with a call number highlighted

How to identify the Sound Archive reference call number

We can provide estimates of the likely cost of making a copy before submission of a completed form and in any event will advise of the cost before the copying work is started. Sound restoration can be undertaken on request. Further details about sound restoration techniques can be obtained from the Copying Services.

In placing an order for a copy to be made, you will need to state your proposed use of the material. Please note that use of copies from our collections for commercial publication or public dissemination of any kind is subject to the British Library's written permission and may involve further charges.

The original letter(s) of copyright permission should be sent, together with the application form, to the following address:

Sound and Moving Image Copying Services
The British Library
96 Euston Rd

T +44 (0)20 7412 7831
F +44 (0)20 7412 7416

PDF files

The links below are to Adobe PDF files. Accessibility solutions and free Reader software are available from Adobe.