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 External Archive Requests team for non-commercial requests and BBC Motion Gallery for commercial requests.

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