IMSLP:Copyright Made Simple

Free public domain sheet music from IMSLP / Petrucci Music Library
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For a more detailed description of copyright and the public domain, see: Public domain. Any questions should be directed to the forums.

'Public Domain' means a work is no longer protected by copyright and can be freely distributed.


Is This Piece Public Domain?

Canada

(China, Korea, Japan, South Africa)


Last surviving composer/arranger/editor/librettist:
Died before 1964: YES
Died after 1963: NO

For authors who died after 1949 (Canada), a piece first published after composer's death might be copyright for 50 years from the date of first publication.

United States



Anything by anyone:
Published before 1923: YES
Published after 1922: NO





European Union



Last surviving composer/arranger/editor/librettist:
Died before 1944: YES
Died after 1943: NO

A piece first published more than 70 years after a composer's death might under copyright for 25 years from the date of first publication.


For a work to be allowed on IMSLP, it must be in the public domain in either Canada* or the US**. Additionally, for a file on the main (Canadian) server to be released for access, it must be public domain in either the US or the EU. Therefore, it is extremely important that all IMSLP contributors understand the concepts outlined here.
*Files which enter the public domain in Canada in the next year are kept on the site (blocked from access), for purposes of convenience. Also, files cannot be released on the EU server without also being released on the Canadian server.
**Files which are public domain in the US only may be made available on the US server; see this thread for details.

Copyright by Major Area

Canada (also China, Japan, South Korea)

  • A work is in the public domain if the last surviving author/editor/librettist has been dead for over 50 years.
    • Example: Any work by Sergey Prokofiev is in the public domain in Canada, since he died in 1953.
  • In Canada only, a work first published after the death of the last surviving author/editor/librettist may be copyrighted for up to 50 years after the date of first publication.

United States

  • Any work first published before 1923 is in the public domain.
    • Example: Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No.1 is public domain in the US, since it was published in 1912.
  • Any work first published from 1923 to 1977 is subject to a 95-year term of copyright.
  • Any work first published 1978 and later is subject to a term of life of the last surviving author plus 70 years.

European Union

  • A work is in the public domain if the last surviving author/editor/librettist has been dead for over 70 years.
    • Example: Any work by Maurice Ravel is public domain in the EU, since he died in 1937.
      • However, in France, protection of musical works enjoys special time extension compensating for the war period (WWI and WWII). For composers who died before January 1, 1995, the time protection after death is 78 years and 120 days for works published between January 1, 1921 and December 31, 1947 and 84 years and 272 days for works published until December 31, 1920. This is why none of Ravel’s work is public domain in France while it is so in many European countries.
  • A work first published after the death of the last surviving author/editor/librettist is subject to copyright protection of at least 25 years after first publication.

Urtext Editions

  • In Canada, "Scientific" or "Urtext" editions (where the editor(s) made no significant contributions in an effort to replicate the author's intentions) receive no copyright protection. However,
  • In the EU, Urtext editions get up to 30 years of copyright protection after publication. IMSLP voluntarily observes this rule for 25 years as a courtesy to publishers.
  • In the US, Urtext editions are theoretically protected like any other work. However, many have come into the public domain due to failure to renew, give proper notice, etc. If you are not sure about the US copyright status of an urtext edition, please post on the forums.

Recordings

EU

A recording is public domain in the EU 50 years after lawful release.

Canada

A recording is public domain in Canada if the last surviving performer/author/librettist has been dead for at least 50 years

USA

Recordings made before 1972 may be under copyright in the US until 15 February 2067. For more information, see here.
See also: Quick Guide to Score Submission

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