Any Music Downloads - Royalty Free Music » Copyrights & Licensing » Music Copyright » Can Classical Music be Copyrighted? (You’ll Be Surprised)

Can Classical Music be Copyrighted? (You’ll Be Surprised)

a concept image for the topic can classical music be copyrighted

Can Classical Music be Copyrighted? Mozart, Chopin, Bach, and Beethoven—these are some of the names that might cross your mind when we say “classical music.” Since these icons passed away decades ago, their masterpieces have been labeled public domain.

Yet, you might wonder if the same rule applies to other composers, or…

Can classical music be copyrighted?

Typically music copyright licenses last for 70 years+ the age of the original composers when they died. According to this formula, a significant amount of music composed by artists in the late 1700s to early 1900s is in the public domain.

However, there are exceptions to these rules when we consider other aspects of copyright and licensing regulations. Due to this, you may discover that some classical compositions remain under copyright protection for centuries.

This article explains how you can recognize copyright music and questions to ask yourself before using an unoriginal composition.   

Untangling Copyright Laws Surrounding Classical Music

First and foremost, BMI (Broadcast Music Inc) states, assuming all classical music is in the public domain is a common misconception” can get you into trouble if you use protected compositions. Even though compositions “created after January 1, 1978” are released into the public domain after a designated period. By rule of thumb, the validity of these licenses is calculated by adding seventy years to the composer’s lifetime.

Nevertheless, composition licenses and sound recording licenses can complicate intellectual copyright laws. That means you might access the musical compositions of Beethoven and Chopin online without any copyright issues. Yet, receive an infringement notice if you pick up the recording of an orchestra or artist that has copyright claims to that version of the composition.

Moreover, specific printing editions of classical scores remain under protection because the original creator sold that piece to an agency or organization for profit. Musical scores released by Igor Stravinsky often fall under this category. He safeguarded some of his works to prevent anyone from “tinkering” with the original composition.

You might have to scour authority sites and domains for royalty-free recordings to stay on the safe side. Alternatively, you can create a recorded rendition by using the accessible composition.

Bots vs. Beethoven: Why Algorithm Mutes Copyright Free Content?

Many classical musicians secure rights to specific renditions of their Beethoven symphonies and scores to prevent replications. Others are happy to share their music with the world, but they experience roadblocks in the form of copyright protection bots.

Unfortunately, the digital forums have a more “dystopian” approach to classical music covers and live streaming orchestra concerts. Social media forums and streaming sites like Facebook and YouTube are notorious for pulling down classical music covers shared on the web. Due to this, various musicians and orchestra organizations receive infringement notices when they share their content online.

You can counter these challenges by corresponding with the site administrators and proving that whatever content you used did not have any copyright restrictions.

Music Note: Watch this video to get some more clarity on copyright law.

The Holy Trinity: Three Things to Consider Before Using Music

concept image for topic classical music be copyrighted

Whether you plan to show off your classical music talent by performing Beethoven live or want to use classical music in the background, do some research. You need to cover all copyright grounds to counter potential lawsuits.

Also, we recommend asking three core questions about the chosen composition:

  1. Is the original version in the public domain or under copyright protection?
  2. Does someone have rights to the recordings?
  3. What regulations does your country follow for classical music?

Your answers will determine the fate of your creative vision. The odds are that you might get away by using a royalty-free composition and making it yours. Yet, consulting a specialist might become necessary when rules aren’t clear.

Will You Have to Wait for It, or Can You Play It?

To play or not to play is a question we rarely ask when using classical music. While most century-old compositions are made public after the designated period, some remain protected. Hence, there’s a slight chance that the classical music you want to use comes with a license.

Luckily, you can avoid infringement by collaborating with cover artists or spending some dollars on purchasing temporary rights to the scores. In the end, we suggest playing it safe and tracing licenses whenever you’re unsure about the ownership of a specific piece.

Once you clear these aspects, nobody can stop you from playing those sweet symphonies.

Related Posts

Here’s How to Get a Mechanical License to Cover a Song

Holiday Spirit: Your Guide to Royalty-Free Christmas Music with Vocals (+ Classic Songs in the Public Domain)

What is a Piece of Music for Nine Instruments?