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The Importance of Public Domain Sheet Music


Many people do not think about the value of public domain sheet music, but there are many advantages to having a significant amount of music available for free public use.  Under current copyright laws, works published after January 1, 1978, will remain copyrighted for the life of the author plus seventy years.  So for recently published sheet music, unless the creator has specifically dedicated his or her work to the public domain, it is probably copyrighted.  However, even with this law, there are millions of public domain free sheet music works available.


Having public domain sheet music allows for increased creativity and growth within the music industry.  Here are the most common benefits associated with public domain free sheet music today:


  • Having public domain sheet music allows current composers to use others’ previous work for inspiration.  This inspiration often allows the composer to create something better than they would have been able to without it.

  • Public domain sheet music also allows educators, choir instructors, band directors, and others to have ample material to choose from when teaching children to enjoy listening to and creating music.

  • Putting a time limit on sheet music copyrights will also allow future generations to experience music from all time periods without the worry of which heir currently owns the rights to that particular work.  For example, classical music has grown in popularity throughout the years partly because of its availability in the public domain.