How to request a copy of a sound recording

Image of audio engineer

The Library can provide copies of recordings held in the collections to users who are able to obtain the appropriate copyright clearance. This is a charged service. Please read the information below before submitting an application.


You must obtain permission from the copyright holder(s) before a request for a sound recording can be made. Applications received without clearance for the following permissions will not be processed.

  • Copyright in sound recordings
  • Copyright in literary, dramatic and musical works
  • Copyright in performances
Please see the UK Government guidance notes on copyright and performers' rights in a sound recording, including how long they last.

If the BBC is the rights holder, please contact the BBC Motion Gallery.

If you do not know the copyright status of a musical work, 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.

Permission letter

An acceptable permission will take the form of a signed letter 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) concerned.

Please note the British Library is unable to involve itself directly in discussions with copyright holders.

Requesting 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. Search for recordings using the Sound and Moving Image catalogue.

You must 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. We will advise of the cost before any copying work is started.

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

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

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

Collection guides

Radio broadcast recordings

200,000 hours of radio recordings dating back to the first decade of broadcasting

Forced Entertainment

Over 300 video recordings of performances, workshops and rehearsals

Classical music recordings

Recordings in the western concert tradition, opera, liturgical music, and the pre-Baroque repertories of Western Europe

World and traditional music collection

We hold one of the world's largest collections of recordings variously described as traditional, folk or world music

Music recordings

Our vast collection includes commercial discs, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings

Asian Britain: music and audiovisual

Rich and wide-ranging collections, especially of music and recorded sound

Black Britain: music and audiovisual

Rich and wide-ranging collections, especially of music and recorded sound

Wildlife and environmental sounds

The largest collection of its kind in Europe and the most comprehensive in the world

Poetry Pamphlets

Poetry pamphlets published by independent presses.

English accents and dialects

We have an extensive collection of spoken voice recordings

Oral history

One of the largest collections of oral history and life story interviews in the world

Pop music recordings

We hold one of the most wide-ranging collections of popular music in the world

Drama and literature recordings

A unique collection of audio-visual recordings of drama, poetry and literature in performance

Music manuscripts and archives

Sources for vocal and instrumental works from the Middle Ages to the present