How To Legally Use Copyrighted Music

by : Richard Cunningham

Free copyright music is often mistaken with free public domain music or music in which the copyright has expired. A copyright is in place for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years. If more than one songwriter has authored the music, then the copyright will be in effect for 70 years after the death of the last surviving contributor.

This copyright law was created to ensure that the heirs of the songwriter would also benefit from the royalties after the music's writer or composer was no longer living. It is important to remember that these laws are the current laws; music written at different points in time are most likely subject to different copyright laws. When searching for free copyright music it is always a good idea to search through music that is very old rather than focusing your search on more recent musical selections, as they will most likely still be protected under copyright.

When using free copyright music or public domain music, you must be certain the copy you are using is within the copyright period. Any music published before 1922 is public domain music. This does not, however, include derivatives or new versions of that music which may still be under copyright protection. Finding a copy of the music with the copyright date included, if that date is prior to 1922, is the best route to ensure you are complying with current copyright laws and you not infringing on someone else's copyright.

Written music is protected differently than recorded music. Almost every sound recording copyrighted in the United States is protected until 2067. If you need a sound recording you should either purchase one or make one of your own. You can find many free copyright music by searching on Google; which allows free use of the music and free of any royalty payments.

Copyright laws in the United States are different than they are in other countries. If you wish to use music that is or was under copyright in another country, then you must follow the laws that apply to the particular piece of music. Free copyright music is available in almost every country and many genres; the trick is finding great sources where you can easily find this music.

There is a project called Mutopia, which operates like project Gutenberg. Mutopia provides free copyright music. The Gutenberg project also has a section devoted to free sheet music, in addition to its wonderful resources for books. Each of these projects provides excellent resources to find free copyright music for whatever reason.

Whether you are a musician seeking inspiration from the music of old or hoping to find a composition -- which you can rearrange and make your own -- there are many ways you can achieve your goals that will not violate current copyright laws. The key is learning the copyright laws both where you live and countries in which the music you seek to modify.