Help:Copyright Issues FAQ

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What is a 'CPDL Copyright'?

The CPDL Copyright is a type of open-source license which allows the end user to use a score freely. The only restriction is that if any changes which are made the subsequent version still falls under the CPDL copyright. The license is based on the GNU GPL License that is very common in software development. For the full text of the license, see CPDL license.

Do all of the scores listed by CPDL have the same copyright?

No, although most scores in the database have a CPDL copyright, there are several other types of copyrights. The two other major types of copyrights are a standard personal copyright in which the composer/editor reserves all rights to the music (even though they do allow free downloads), and a non-profit copyright which allows only non-commercial uses. Some editors also stipulate that their scores can only be used for religious purposes. Before using a score, please check the specific terms of copyright for that piece.

When does music fall into the 'public domain'?

Good question! It differs for every country. In the US, all music published before 1923 is public domain, and much music which was not renewed is also in the public domain. Also, facsimiles of original scores and older publications are not copyrightable. However, there are exceptions! In Europe the general rule is that copyright protection exists until 70 years after the composer's death. The rules and exceptions are very convoluted, so do not take these general guidelines as legal precedent in any way.

How can one tell if music is in the public domain?

Copyright law varies by country and has undergone changes. Before 1976, US Copyright Law stated that copyright existed for registered works for 28 years and could be renewed for an additional 28 years. Under the 1976 Act music published before 1978, the renewal term was extended to 47 years (equals 75 years including the original 28 year term). In 1998 another 20 years were added, so that in 2020 works published in 1924 will enter the public domain. In some cases works that were not renewed or had faulty or missing copyright notices have fallen into PD sooner than 95 years.

Can modern editions of public-domain music be copyrighted?

In short, the answer is yes. However, generally there has to be significant articstic/editorial content to make an edition copyrightable. There are a spectrum of editions. On one end are editions which are not copyrightable: these include old editions with expired copyright as well as republications of public domain editions which use the original engravings. Editions which are based on public domain music and add no other editorial content probably are not copyrightable. Further along on the spectrum are editions which include editorial explanations, piano reductions, translations and other additions. These aspects are copyrightable; however, if you perform an edition without using these additions, it might be difficult to prove that you have violated copyright law. Nevertheless, you certainly could be sued, and the resulting cost would be great, whether you lost or not. Further along are full-blown arrangements based on public domain works. These are fully copyrightable and can not be copied unless permission is granted by the copyright holder. The problem for the choral director is that most editons of older music fall somewhere in between being uncopyrightable and being fully copywritable. Add in the problem that almost all music today has a copyright notice (whether that notice is valid or not) and it becomes easiest to assume all editied music is copywritten.

What are the advantages of using a license such as the CPDL Copyright License?

People have wondered, "If music can be copied, distributed, performed, and recorded, why copyright it at all?" One reason is to guarantee that it will remain freely available. If the music notation file (source code) is given away, it is very easy for some one to remove the copyright notice and claim the edition as his/her own. The terms of the CPDL license make this illegal and will hopefully help keep editions free.

Are all the scores on CPDL 'legal'?

CPDL respects the intellectual property of others. By uploading content to CPDL, contributors attest that the material does not violate the rights of others. If you are a copyright holder and believe your work is being infringed on CPDL, please click here for information about how to notify CPDL.

Where are some more websites that deal with copyright issues?

For other sites please check out the Links/Contributors page.

Copy3d.gif This page is part of the Copyright section for CPDL.
See individual pages for details and conditions.