United States copyright law applies in Canada

Public domain

Please note that the IMSLP makes no guarantee whatsoever that the information appearing on this page is legally accurate and assumes no liability or legal responsibility therefor.

'Public domain' or 'Public domain' means that a work is no longer protected by copyright and can be used freely.
For a brief introduction to copyright law and the public domain, see: Copyright Made Easy.

About Canadian Copyright Law

Since IMSLP's two main servers are physically located in Canada (Toronto and Montreal), IMSLP follows suit Canadian copyright lawwhich may be different from the one in your country. In a nutshell, this is what copyright law in Canada looks like: The copyright of the Composers or editors stays until 50 years after death consist. Only works published in countries that are members of the WTO or the Bern Convention are subject to copyright in Canada. In most cases this applies retrospectively, unless the work was already in the public domain in the country in which it was published when the contracts were signed.

Works published before 1926 are in the public domain in the United States, but not necessarily in Canada or other countries. These public domain works that fall under the US-specific regulation are stored separately on the IMSLP-US server, but can be searched from there. The users can do such works Not like normal uploads to the main server (in Canada).

The expiry date of the copyright depends on the year of death of the last people involved (composer, arranger, editor, arranger, author, etc.).

  • Example 1: In 1985 Henle published a new edition of the Beethoven Sonatas, which an editor who was still alive revised.
- The factory is not in the public domain, because the editor is still alive and the new setting is protected by copyright.
  • Example 2: In 1995 Dover published a reprint of an old (public domain) edition of the Beethoven sonatas.
- The factory is in the public domain (with the exception of the title page and cover), because reprinting a work in the public domain does not result in a new copyright.

Some groups print in the public domain without re-editing and write "copyright 20XX", although doing so does not provide copyright protection. This procedure is called copy-fraud (Copy fraud), and despite the copyright notice, the work is in the public domain. The copyright notice can usually be found at the bottom of the first page of a score.

Legal upload

While works that are protected in the US but in the public domain in Canada may be included in our archives, scanning and uploading such a work could violate US law for residents of the US.

Definition of the concept of copyright

The following table is valid for 2021. The term "author" refers to the composer, the orchestrator or arranger, an editor of a non-Urtext edition or a lyricist whose work has been musically implemented by the composer. In almost all life plus XX years statutes, this applies to the last survivor Author.

Copyright of compositions and publications by known author, published for the first time in front 1926
Death of the author Copyright Canada Copyright USA Copyright EU and Russia Required template for IMSLP
< 1951
Public Domain (Life + 50)
Public domain
Public Domain (Life + 70)
none: always public domain
protected by copyright
Template: WorkNonPD-EU
> 1970
protected by copyright
† (Very rare exception: certain foreign works after 1909 may be protected in the western US states by jurisdiction of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals).
Copyright of compositions and publications with a well-known editor, published for the first time to 1925
‡ (USA: Non-Renewal Evidence and Non-Existence of the "Letter of Intent to Enforce Copyright" (NIE status) mainly affects works published in 1926-1963. Protection for all works published between 1964-1977 is automatically renewed These works enjoy full protection for 95 years from the first notification of publication and the occurrence of the entitlement requirements for copyright. Works published after 1977 are subject to the life plus 70 rule, but the notification and entitlement requirements remain more limited Form until 1989.)
Copyright of non-private publications with unknown author *
Year of publication Copyright Canada Copyright USA Copyright EU and Russia Required template for IMSLP
before 1926
Public Domain (Pub + 50)
Public domain
Public domain (Pub + 70 in most countries)
none: always public domain
protected by copyright (Pub. +95), except already 'public domain' in the country of first publication in 1966
File: Template: FileNonPD-USandEU
protected by copyright
File: Template: FileNonPD-USandEU
> 1970
protected by copyright
File: Template: FilenotPD
* In Canada and most other countries, the Known Author rules apply when a previously anonymous author has been identified.
Author known unpublished work
Death of the author Copyright Canada Copyright USA Copyright EU and Russia Comments
< 1951
Public domain (life + 50) **
Public domain (life + 70)
possibly protected by copyright if it has actually not yet been published
Possibly Editio princeps claim
(25 years after first publication)
protected by copyright
protected by copyright
** Canada considers any "performance, recording, or other announcement" to be equivalent to publication for works by authors who died between 1948 and 1963. Works that No way listed, recorded or made known in any other way are entitled to protection for 50 years from the date of initial publication.
> 1970
protected by copyright

Editions of works in public domain status

Determination of the type of output

There is no copyright law in Canada that relates solely to publication as such. Thus, every unedited reprint or an unchanged, newly set public domain edition is also public domain. However, Canadian copyright law has an exception that states that significant editions from unknown publishers are protected for 50 years after publication or until the publisher becomes public. In this case, the copyright applies retrospectively up to 50 years after the publisher's death. However, due to its unclear nature, this clause hardly ever applies.

In contrast to Canada, the publication date is extremely important in assessing the public domain status of works in the United States (see Copyright Act for Works Before 1923). The term "edition" or the reference "edited by" was used very freely by editors and ranged from serious new arrangements and re-orchestrations of the original work to completely unchanged reprints of older scores in public domain status.

Insignificant editorial changes do not have their own copyright, whereas significant changes often do. In order to qualify an edition for the full concept of "death + 50 years" protection (or to obtain copyright protection at all), the editing by the publisher of the work must be of a significant and independent nature - based on the legally regulated terms "threshold of independence ". The following list gives an incomplete list of significant and insignificant processing activities.

  • Very important: Transcriptions, orchestrations, arrangements, creative design of continuo or figured bass parts.
  • Less important: Adding your own (new) fingerings, articulations, slurs, dynamics and tempo indications, simple chord conversions of a figured bass.
  • Insignificant: Key changes (transposition), bug fixes, translation of general expressions and instrument names.
  • Insignificant: Add fingerings, articulations, slurs, dynamics, and tempo indications from other non-copyright sources.

Collections can be considered an original compilation, which means that after the death of the editor of the edition (usually a publisher) they are protected in Canada (death + 50 years) and in the EU (death + 70 years). Since these collections are reassembled by the person reassembling the already published works of one or more composers in a new edition, the "intention" of assembling in exactly this order can lead to a new "original work" (but usually only the compilation as such, not the individual works contained) and this leads to a new level of copyright law in addition to the existing rights of the composers of the works (if these works themselves are still subject to copyright).

There have been a couple of cases in the US where fingering has been looked at, with the courts ruling that simple fingerings, arrangements or phrasing are not as protected by the Copyright Act. "The cases are cited by the Los Angeles Copyright Society: Copyright and Related Topics: A Choice of Articles (page 10). University of California Press, 1964.

Urtext or critical editions

In a number of countries there are special provisions on limited copyright for study editions that include critical, Urtext or "scientific" editions (especially Bärenreiter editions but also editions by other German publishers). Please see the Copyright by Country or Territory section for detailed information. While this type of edition is unlikely to contain sufficient material, other than an editor's foreword, notes, and comments, to qualify for Canadian copyright status, IMSLP voluntarily accommodates this by banning critical, or Urtext editions published on the website that were published less than 25 years ago, with the exception of those published by a government agency or a government-owned body (as, for example, the USSR state company did until the fall of the Soviet Union in late 1991).

Posthumously published works (Editio princeps)

Works that are published for the first time after the composer's death and before or after the copyright has expired for the composer enjoy a limited copyright under the term "Edition Princeps" in most countries. In most countries, including EU countries, this applies 25 years after the first publication. However, some countries are stricter about what qualifies a work as a first edition. In the case of a composer who has long since passed away, in some countries a public performance counts as a first publication and allows the period for a work to be qualified as "Editio Princeps" to begin.


  • Posthumously published works by composers who died before December 31, 1948 are now in the public domain (since December 31, 2003 at the latest).
  • Posthumously published works by composers who died on or after December 31, 1948 remain protected from the date of first publication * plus 50 years.
If unpublished * on or before December 31, 1998, such works will remain copyrighted until December 31, 2049
  • Posthumously published works by composers who died after December 31, 1998 are protected for up to 50 years after the composer's death

* The works of composers who in front Died on December 31, 1998, which were "performed or communicated" during the composer's lifetime or later count as "published" on the date of first performance or public provision.

Article from Wikipedia ...

Prior to the 1999 reform of the [Copyright] Act, works published after the author's death were copyrighted 50 years after publication, granting unlimited copyright to unpublished works. This has been revised so that the protection is limited as follows:

Time of death of the composer / author ... with an unpublished
Work, which posthumously ...
Copyright period ... Relevant (Canadian) Copyright
before December 31, 1998 before December 31, 199850 years from the date of publication Section 7 (subsections 1 and 2)
before 1949after December 31, 1998protected until December 31, 2003 Section 7 (Subsection 4)
1949-1998 protected until December 31, 2048 Section 7 (Subsection 3)
after December 31, 1998protected until 50 years after the end of the year of death  ?

European Union

  • Anyone who legally publishes or legally publicly reproduces a previously unpublished work whose copyright protection has expired for the first time enjoys protection corresponding to the property rights of the author. The term of protection for such rights is 25 years from the point in time at which the work was first legally published or legally publicly reproduced for the first time. [1]
  • The duration of the copyright is 25 years after the lawful publication or disclosure to the public, if this'to The author's copyright expires [2].

United States

  • Works that were first published posthumously between 1926 and 1977 with correct copyright marking, registration and renewal are protected for up to 95 years, while works of this type that were first published between 1978 and 2002 are protected until January 1, 2049. Works by authors who have been dead for more than 70 years and which are published for the first time after 2002 do not enjoy any copyright protection per se, at most as a new edition or other non-original work.

Reprint editions

Reprint editions of publications that are in the public domain are not copyrighted in Canada, the US, the EU, and almost anywhere in the world. This applies not only to printed editions, but also to scanned reprints that are accessible on digital media or on the Internet. No copyright can be asserted for the scanning of a public domain work (see corresponding judgment: Bridgeman Art Library v. Library v. Corel Corp.), regardless of whether the original is scanned or printed in manuscript form.

Composers who will enter the public domain in the coming years

(incomplete lists)

International Treaties on Copyright

See also:

Countries signing in Bern

This convention states that if a work is in the public domain in its country of origin, it is also in the public domain in all other countries that have signed the Bern Treaty and have formally recognized these provisions. That provision was made, however Not adopted in the US or Canada.

The European Union applies the shorter time limit rule for works whose country of origin is outside the EU. Thus, a work by an American composer that has achieved public domain status in the USA does not receive any further protection in the EU, unless it falls under a bilateral agreement between the USA and the EU country concerned.

That is in the Treaty of Bern Country of origin defined as the country of first publication of a new work.

In NAFTA signatory states (U.S.A, Canada, Mexico)

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): Article 1703: National Agreement:

  • 1. Each party should admit to nationals of the other party that they are not in a worse position,
    as it is due to the own nationals with a view to the protection and strengthening of all intellectual property rights.

Copyright Laws by Country or Territory

Any work published during the lifetime of an author who died in 1954 or earlier is no longer protected. The 70-year deadline applies to authors who died in 1955 or later.

European Union
The basic aim of the 93/98 / EC Directive on Copyright, summarized in the 2006/11 / EC Directive, was to harmonize the copyright period for EU countries to the death-plus-70-year period, including a copyright renewal for works over time became public domain in countries with a death-plus-50-year deadline. Article 5 is of particular importance with regard to editions of music in the public domain and states that member states protect "critical and scholarly publications" of works in the public domain a maximum of 30 years from publication (italics added). Article 4 guarantees the publisher copyright protection for a previously unpublished work in the public domain for 25 years from first publication (Editio Princeps), provided that the work in question is "legally published" in accordance with the specific laws of the country in which the publication appears .

Czech Republic
All Czech government publications are in the public domain. This particularly applies to Artia / Orbis / SNKLHU / Supraphon, which from 1948 to 1989 was a structural organization. See the Copyright Act of the Czech Republic (file is held by WIPO; see also OSA, the Czech Organization for Authors' Rights).

United Kingdom
Basic copyright law lasts 70 years beyond the life of the last author. Anonymous editions are copyrighted for 70 years from publication or, if not yet published, 70 years from creation.

England has a special "Typographical Design" law (this mainly means re-setting). A "typographic design" is only protected 25 after publication, see information on copyright in Great Britain. This affects many originally German publishers who have moved to England (e.g. Eulenburg).

Since January 1, 1995, basic copyright law has been in existence for 70 years after the last author's death. Anonymous editions are copyrighted for 70 years from publication or, if not yet published, 70 years from creation. In a provision under the title Prorogations de guerre there is still a special privilege of 30 years for authors who 'died in war' (such as Jehan Alain). In addition, posthumous works are protected for 25 years from publication. However, the protection of musical works enjoys special time extensions that are intended to compensate for the war times (World War I + II). 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 up to December 31, 1920. This is why none of Ravel's works were in the public domain in France in 2009, although they were in the public domain in many European countries. See info on copyright in France

Basic copyright law lasts 70 years beyond the life of the last author. Anonymous editions are copyrighted for 70 years from publication or, if not yet published, 70 years from their creation. Posthumous first editions are protected for 25 years from publication. According to Section 70 of the German Copyright Act, scientific editions, i.e. editions created as the result of a scientific analysis (i.e. scientific or critical editions and Urtext editions) have a copyright term of only 25 years from publication, which means that all such scientific editions published before 1994 are in the public domain. In contrast, arrangements, transcriptions, orchestrations, continuo elaborations and interpretive editions enjoy the full protection period of 70 years from the death of the author.


  • Basic protection: 70 years after death
  • Posthumous publication: 25 years after publication
See also: New Liszt Edition


  • Basic protection: 70 years after death
  • Scientific and critical editions: 20 years [3]
  • Rights affecting the state, provinces, municipalities, academies or public cultural organizations or private legal persons of a non-profit nature: 20 years

Portugal's basic copyright term is only 50 years after the death of the last surviving author (also in the case of a posthumously published work), or 50 years after publication if no author can be identified. The Portuguese Copyright Law is dedicated Translations, arrangements, instrumentations, stage adaptations, film adaptations and, in general, every transformation of a work a separate article, but does not clearly state copyright protection for these works. (Legal text in English at WIPO)

Russia / USSR
The current Russian copyright laws are very complicated and confusing. In principle, works by authors who died before 1943 are in the public domain, whereas authors who died after 1943 enjoy protection for 70 years after their death. This is the current interpretation that can be found on Wikipedia. According to the Wikipedia article on the Copyright Act of the Russian Federation, which was amended in 2004, the change from the 50-year to the 70-year period not retroactive. The Russian Federation enacted the first post-Soviet copyright law in 1993, which ensured a life-plus-50 period for the last surviving author, thereby introducing protection for authors who died in 1943 and later. The 2004 revisions that took effect in 2006 and now retroactive to the entry into force of the original law (1993) represent the date 1943 as correct. To make matters even more confusing, there is also an ordinance to the Act (Article 1256) which states that none of the works published before November 7, 1917 in the Russian Republic of the Russian Empire and were not republished again within the 30 days of the Revolution are more subject to copyright protection. It is not clear whether works by authors who died after 1942 and published before November 7, 1917 belong in this category.

The copyright of Tsarist Russia was very similar to German copyright law, where works were granted a protection period of 50 years from death. However, Russia was no Signers of the Bern Copyright Treaty (1888) and works by Russian composers were only protected by co-publication agreements between Russian publishers such as Jurgenson and Bessel and Western companies such as D. Rahter, Bote & Bock, and Breitkopf & Härtel.

With the communist revolution of 1917 the situation changed drastically. Individual copyright was first abolished along with all other types of private property. This change was devastating to the copyright status of Russian composers - including those living in the West such as Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky. Since all works - whether in the Soviet Union or abroad - effectively became the property of the state in the USSR, all Soviet works in western countries have been declared in the public domain, including those of emigrated Soviet citizens. In order to secure a Western copyright status for works by Soviet authors through treaties, the Soviet state finally introduced a term of protection limited to 25 years after death in 1928, which was shortened to life plus 15 years in 1961. Even so, the Soviet state (USSR) fully controlled the publication of all works by living or deceased people to which the state asserted copyrights. Although original works by Soviet composers have been granted copyright status thanks to various treaties, editions of works in the public domain published by Muzyka, the Soviet state music publishing organization, are generally considered to be in the public domain because they have been prepared by state employees for a state organization and the copyright holder (the USSR) ceased to exist in 1991.

See also: New Liszt Edition

United States of America

  • If a work was published before 1925, or was first published in the US between 1926 and 1963 without a copyright renewal, it is almost certainly in the public domain.
  • Works published by a natural person after 1926 with a proper copyright renewal, protected 70 years after the author's death.
  • Works published by a corporation after 1926 without an author are protected for 95 years from publication.

Currently, the only way to find out the renewal status of works published prior to 1950 is to do a formal search of the US Copyright Office in person, or to have the Copyright Office do a paid search for a formal search. Later recordings are available online at the US Copyright Office website. This database only lists records from 1978 onwards, which, however, contain the updates to works published in 1950. Non-musical records from 1926-1977 are listed in the Gutenberg project.

Restoration of Copyright for Foreign Works, published 1926-1978 Some foreign works from this time, which were formally in the public domain due to the lack of the notice and the renewal provisions of the US law, were returned to copyright protection on the basis of provisions of the GATT / TRIPS agreement (entry into force January 1, 1996) provided the work in question was in Country of origin was not yet in the public domain. Works that were already in the public domain in their country of origin on Jan. 1, 1996 were not included in the restoration of the U.S. Copyright.

Sound recordings

The copyright for sound recordings consists of 2 levels:

  1. The copyright status of the musical work that was recorded;
  2. The copyright of the sound recording itself. The length of the periods mentioned in this section apply only to the copyright of the sound recording. For the copyright of the underlying musical work, see the main part of this page.

The copyright for a sound recording exists 70 years after legal publication (or 70 years after the "fixation" if it has not yet been released).

This rule does not apply 'retrospectively', so recordings that were published or completed before November 1st, 1963 are still in the public domain in the EU.

The copyright for a sound recording exists 70 years after legal publication (or 70 years after the "fixation" if it has not yet been released).

As in the EU, this regulation does not apply 'retrospectively', so recordings that were published or completed before January 1st, 1965 are still in the public domain in Canada.

United States
Sound recordings were not covered by federal copyright law until 1972. All recordings made before that date, including those released before 1926, may be copyrighted until February 15, 2067. This has to do with the fact that such recordings may fall under the common-law copyright and trade statutes of various individual countries. Sound recordings released between February 15, 1972 and March 1, 1989 without notice may be in the public domain, especially works published between 1972 and 1977. After January 1, 1978, an omission or absence of the reference could be corrected if this was reported to the copyright office within 5 years. The status of sound recordings in the various states is very complicated, with conflicting court judgments. California and New York state explicitly sound recordings in their state laws, California even lists protection until 2047.

Dedication as a work in the public domain

Some works that can be found on other sites are declared "in the public domain". If these files are expressly in the public domain by the author or copyright holder, they may actually be in the public domain, but may not be legal under all legal aspects (unless they have been published under Creative Commons Zero or a comparable dedication, waiving all rights and public licenses ). Sometimes the boundaries to the original work are obscured because this designation is often used for newly set works that are widely in the public domain.


In Canada, a copyright owner can give up his or her right to a work; According to York University, "Works can be in the public domain because ... the copyright holder has forfeited their copyright in favor of the public." Even so, "moral rights" can come into play for works affecting Canada's particularly high threshold of originality (see below).
  • Moral law.
In Canada, moral rights last as long as copyright itself (50 years from the author's death) and, in principle, cannot be forfeited. For new and originals Works, this may be a minor problem (see the sections in the E.U. rubric about express and implied licenses); nevertheless, where the music is a new notation of an existing work, it is not copyrightable in Canada (see next section).
The limit of originality of a work is very high in Canada and newly set notes of older works do not create new copyright or moral rights (even if IMSLP has some rules regarding Urtext editions that are stricter than Canadian copyright law). If an edition does not qualify under Canadian copyright law anyway, then there is no moral or intellectual property right for a work that is expressly dedicated to the public domain.

United States

In the United States, a copyright owner can give up their rights to a work if, for example, they use an obsolete CC tool. Such a dedication to the public domain has been part of US law for many years.
  • Moral law.
Unlike in Canada, the E.U. and most other countries, the states know U.S. no particular set of personal rights associated with copyright (instead, the government says, defamation rules etc meet the expectations of the Bern Convention). When it comes to waivers in the US, personal rights are irrelevant.
While a number of court rulings have established high standards of originality (both for score editions and other works), the U.S. Copyright authorities often very generously allowed registrations of new notation of older works. Even if such an issue will most likely be declared in the public domain by the court, IMSLP will always behave as if the copyright was in place, for reasons of caution and because such a litigation is extremely expensive and lengthy.

European Union

  • Dedication of copyrights and moral rights.
It may or may not be possible to give up copyrights as such (depending on the laws of different EU countries). Even if it is possible to do it, the matter of that remains Moral law in the game; These rights are not subject to the same discontinuation terms as in the case of copyright law and cannot actually be given up, not even voluntarily. However, it is possible that moral rights only apply if they were originally expressly exercised, but this depends on the respective jurisdiction (in Great Britain e.g.: "Under United Kingdom law, the right of attribution must be expressly asserted. This expects an active Act so that others know that the right is to be exercised. "). It should be pointed out at this point that the copyright regulations in the individual countries differ widely (and have not yet been harmonized by EU copyright law).
  • Express and Implied Licenses.
Some dedications may contain a list of rights that state that the public may reproduce, use, etc. the work (the exact dedication must be observed). In this case, it can be viewed as a form of express license from the copyright holder. In the case of Wikimedia projects, for example, this license is clear and comprehensive; at Mutopia, it is less complete and unambiguous, but at least there is a list of user rights. But even if there is no such list of rights, it can be assumed that a very liberal license for use is assumed in case law, where the dedication as public domain is not clear.
While the requirements for originality can vary greatly between the individual member states, the EU regulation (but expects it Not) grant the countries up to 30 years of protection - from the date of publication - for critical editions ("typographical arrangements," in U.K. parlance, also called "scientific editions" in the EU copyright regulation). At the moment Germany and Great Britain grant this copyright for 25 years and Italy for 20 years. The other EU countries do not currently protect these expenses, but with the passage of a law they can be protected at any time.

Advice to IMSLP Editors

When a file Your own work is, then insure yourself that the work under the Creative Commons Zero License is released if you want to ensure the public domain status of your file; this leads to the fact that their work is passed into the public domain in the case law, as far as this is legally possible; where this is not possible, there are very extensive licenses that allow the use of the piece as more or less in the public domain.
If the piece Is NOT their own work, then please mark it with the status it was approved as by the original creator.

Additional information

See also