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The glossary contains definitions and explanations of key terms and phrases used that may not be easily understood. In line with the aim of Lost in Music to make the music industry easier to navigate, we hope that these will aid your understanding of the cases. If there are other terms you spot that we have used that are not in the glossary but need further explanation, please contact one of the team.


In music there are twelve possible keys (or root notes) that define a piece of music. In their minor form the keys are associated with moods of sadness, owing to their flattened third note. The contrasting major keys are associated with happiness.


In this context, an expert in music who can analyse pieces of music to compare the separate elements of their construction, such as melody, harmony, structure, instrumentation, to help rights owners ascertain whether one might infringe another.


A large-scale creative work combining music and words (called libretto) which is performed on a stage. It tells a story and is usually sung throughout with dramatic performance from the singers. Opera evolved in Italy in the early 17th century and included orchestral accompaniment and costumed performers. It is a lavish assault on the senses – one of the very first audio-visual experiences.

passing off

In this context, a legal term used when music is performed in a way that creates the impression of being something that it is not. For example a song in the style of Madonna, sung by someone who looks like Madonna, or perhaps emulating a video of a song by Madonna, could be claimed to be passing off as Madonna.

public domain

A copyright work in which the period of copyright protection has expired is considered to be public domain. In the case of musical compositions most countries now observe a period of 70 years' protection after the death of the author or composer, meaning that works whose creators died before 1947 are now considered public domain, though there are always exceptions and anomalies. Original versions of traditional songs are also public domain, though arrangements of traditional songs are considered new copyrights. In the case of sound recordings, the EU term of protection was recently extended from 50 to 70 years, though any recordings first released before 1963 are now considered to be public domain. Again there are different rules and exceptions for different countries.


The tune - the main, identifiable element of a piece of music that gives it its strongest unique quality, and thus the feature that is most strongly contested in an infringement case. The adjective 'melodic' refers to the melody.

In the media

examples of disputes that have been reported in the press. It may be that these escalate to either a settled case or a decided case

Decided cases

cases that have been decided in court and where there is a legal judgement available

Settled Cases

cases that have been settled, often on confidential terms, without being decided in court.


The musical instruments required to perform a piece of music. In music for orchestras the term 'orchestration' is also used.