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Does sound effects in daily life have copyright?

Posted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 4:39 pm
by Anna
Hi folks.

Ordinary sounds one can come across in daily life, like: clapping, footstep, airflow, electrics, scream, etc. I have some of these sounds, but cannot locate their sources. Will it be safe if I use them?

Posted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 7:18 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Anna,

When you say you "have some of these sounds" do you mean that you some sound effects recordings made by other people? If so, then while there is no copyright in the sounds themselves, the recordings are protected as sound recordings* (just like recordings of music). This means that copying them for use in a commercial setting would infringe the rights in the recordings unless they were issued with some sort of licence detailing how they could be used. A bit like clip art, sounds effects are presumably sold with the intention that they will be used in some way beyond straightforward listening to them. Thus it is highly probable that they did originally come with a limited use licence, However as you don't know the source, you presumably can't check this.

In theory you do need permission to re-use these recordings but if you can't identify the source or find a licence, you would be running a risk using these effects without it. Alternatively you could try recording your own sound effects, on a smart phone perhaps, unless of course you need something outside the normal everyday sort of noise (say, for instance, the Flying Scotsman passing through Crewe station at 70 mph).

* Copyright in sound recordings lasts for 70 years from the year they were first made.

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2015 3:51 am
by Anna
Thanks Andy. I think I need to be careful with these sound effects.