Using Copyrighted and Library Content

Find out how you can legally and ethically use copyrighted and library content in your academic research, instruction, essays & writings, and creative projects. Legal disclaimer: this copyright guide is meant for informational & educational purposes only.

Library Research Guide

Recording Musical Performances


This page is mostly specific to the K-State community. It will help K-State faculty, staff, and students understand the steps to take to be able to legally record their performances and distribute (share) their performances online. However, the content on recording and distributing recordings of dramatic performances can apply to most situations in the U.S.

Recording Musical Performances at K-State

Recording a musical performance of a copyrighted work and sharing it on a K-State-hosted Internet site may be permitted by K-State’s blanket music license agreements.

To determine if you can record and share your musical performance, first determine whether the musical work is included in one of the three musical performance rights organizations' (PROs) repertories (i.e., directories) listed on the Musical and Theatrical Performances page of this guide.

If the musical performance you wish to record is listed in one of the repertories, you can record and share your performance online, but only if:

  • The recording is hosted on a K-State-hosted Internet website.
  • It is not a dramatic performance recorded on video. The following are considered dramatic works:
    • Plays, musicals, operas;
    • Musical performances accompanied by dialogue, pantomime, dance, stage action, or visual representation of the work from which the music is taken, and;
    • Musical performances part of a story/plot, regardless of accompanying dramatic elements.

Here is an example of musical recordings hosted on a K-State website (the K-State Research Exchange, or K-REx) that complies with the terms of the blanket music license agreements:

If you are unsure about whether the website is a K-State-hosted Internet website or whether your video recording is a dramatic performance, contact the Center for the Advancement of Digital Scholarship (CADS) at

Uses Not Covered by K-State’s Blanket Music License Agreements

Online Sharing

Posting to YouTube or another public website not affiliated with K-State is not permitted by the blanket license agreements, but it may be covered by YouTube music policies, which are assigned by the music copyright holders. If the music policies do not cover your use, you can first make a fair use evaluation of your use or obtain the necessary permissions, which is sometimes done through a synchronization (sync) license. However, if you want to record a full-length dramatic performance, such as a play or musical, you will likely need to obtain permission through the rights holder. Please see the next sections on this page.

If the above options do not work for you, see the next box on "Recording Dramatic Performances" for more information on how to obtain the rights to record and distribute recordings of dramatic performances.

Recording & Distributing Cover Music

If you want to record music that you did not compose, this is considered cover music. If you wish to distribute and sell the recordings, you will need to obtain a mechanical license. The Harry Fox Agency is the main resource for obtaining a mechanical license. They use Songfile for obtaining the license if you are an organization (such as a school) or an individual.

Recording Dramatic Performances

Typical sound board and recording equipment at a public performance

Typical recording equipment at a theater.
Photo courtesy of Joint Base Andrews,
in the public domain.

K-State's music blanket license agreements do not cover any dramatic public performances or recordings of these performances. Therefore, rights must be obtained for each individual dramatic performance from the publisher or through the appropriate performance rights organization (PRO).

Obtaining the rights to perform a dramatic work, such as a play or musical, does not ensure that you have the rights secured to record the performance or distribute the recording.

Obtaining the Right to Record Dramatic Performances

Carefully read the license agreement when you purchase public performance rights. It is not likely that the recording rights are also included in the agreement by default, and therefore, if you wish to record the performance and distribute it, you will need to secure these additional rights in writing, preferably in the signed agreement between you and the PRO.

You may already have secured the right to publicly perform a dramatic work, and if that is the case, contact the PRO or publisher that holds the rights in order to secure recording and/or distribution rights. These PROs are listed on the Musical & Theatrical Performances page of this guide.

Obtaining the Right to Distribute Recordings of Dramatic Performances

In addition, if you do obtain the right to record the performance, you may also want to obtain the right to distribute and/or publish the recording.

Many PROs will not allow the publication or public sharing/uploading of such performances, but they may allow you to distribute or sell copies, such as DVDs, of the recording.

Keep in mind that you will most likely need to pay additional license fees to obtain any of these rights.

For the most well-known dramatic/theatrical PROs, refer to the Musical and Theatrical Performances page of this guide and scroll to the last box, "Performing Theatrical or Dramatic Pieces at K-State."