How to request a copy of a sound recording

Image of audio engineer

The British Library can provide copies of audio recordings held in the collections to users. This is a charged service. Please read the information below before submitting an application.


It is your responsibility to assess whether the recording is in copyright or not. If the sound recording(s) that you want copies of are in copyright and your use is not covered by one of the copyright exceptions outlined below, then you must clear permission from all rights holders. Please clear copyright before you submit your request. 

If the recording you wish to use is wholly or partially copyright © British Library Board, and if the use isn’t covered by a copyright exception, you will need to take out a licence with the British Library and pay a licensing fee.  Please complete a sound licence application form and send to

For information on types and durations of copyright, please see the government guidance.

Sound recordings can have several types of copyright:

  • Recording
  • Literary, dramatic and musical works
  • Performances
  • Broadcast

Copyright exceptions

If you plan to use the sound recording(s) in a manner covered by a copyright exception, then you are not required to clear copyright with rights holders. 

Disability: If you are requesting a copy because you have a disability that prevents you coming to the library to use our Listening Service, please fill out an Access Copy Declaration in addition to the Sound Copy Request form and submit both. 

Library Privilege: If you are requesting a copy for private study, please fill out a Library Privilege Declaration in addition to the Sound Copy Request form and submit both. 


Rights clearance resources

If your use is not covered by a copyright exception and if the work is still in copyright, you will need to clear copyright with the rights holder. Here are some recommended resources:

For BBC recordings:

For commercial musical recordings: 

  • The PRS may be able to help.

For recordings containing literary and dramatic works: 

  • Please contact the relevant publisher or use the contact details listed on the WATCH file.

Permission letter(s)

Copyright clearance will take the form of a signed letter from either the rights holder or the individual/company/organisation representing them, allowing the British Library to copy the recording on your behalf. 

The letter(s) 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. 

For example:

This is to warrant that I am the owner (or authorised representative) of the copyright contained within the materials licensed that are listed below and am fully entitled to grant permission to use the Works.

You must provide a separate permission letter for each of the individual rights holders. 

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

Copy charges

We calculate copying charges by the length of time taken to make the copy, not the duration of the recording. There is no additional charge for materials. Upon receipt of a completed copying order we will contact you to advise you on the copying charges that will result from your order. All charges are payable by cheque or credit card. VAT is charged extra at a rate of 20% to all customers within the UK and the European Union. Delivery time is subject to preservation condition of the recording and receipt of all necessary copyright permissions.

  • Wildlife Recordings: £50 per operator hour (£20 minimum);
  • Non- wildlife Recordings: £180 per operator hour (£45 minimum). 
Submitting a request


Copies are provided at the discretion of the Library, archival restrictions may apply.

We recommend first searching for recordings you want using the Sound and Moving Image catalogue and making a note of the title(s) and shelfmark(s) of the items. 

Please send all declarations, original letter(s) of copyright permission, and request forms, 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