Copyrighted Classical Music?


I want to put snippets of Bach and Beethoven on my site, does anyone know if classical music like this is still owned by anyone who would perhaps prosecute me if I was using it without paying them?

Good question… I’m not all that posative my self… I’d tend to say that you could, especially if you were only putting snippets up, and not the whole peice.
I hope someone knows the answer to this… I’ve had this question about music for a while now.

Hey marigoldscafe,
Good question. I too am not sure, but I have seen so many sites that have their music playing as backgrounds and in animations. I’m sure that a small sample wouldn’t be bad.

I was wondering about this too. (See guys, I actually search the forum!)

Obviously someone owns the copyrights, but how can I tell who?

diggin up old threads are we?

Wow - that was three years ago!

The thing about classical music is that there almost no original recordings from the original classical composers. Most classical music, at least in the 20 or so classical CDs I own, is recreated by a symphony and later released as a CD using that symphony’s publisher/promoter.

Several of my CDs are copyrighted by a conductor called Ashkenazy and Time-Life who recorded renditions of Beethoven’s famous works by a Czech symphony.


Hmm… So I could use the sheet music I got in orchestra and type that into FL Studio with a cello sounding instrument and use it?

I’m guessing you can do that. I don’t know about the sheet music though :frowning:

I think copyrights expire after about 70 years, so it’s in the public domain. You might want to check on this though as I don’t know the details.

I dont think its 70 years becasue the stuff the Beetles did in the 60’s is coming up soon…like within the next decade (maybe soooner).

Erm maybe 60 years? i just counted it it could be 70 tho…

Probably different lengths of time for different types of objects to be copyrighted.

Most copyrights and patents have a finite term; when it expires, the work or invention falls into the public domain. In most of the world, patents expire 20 years after they are filed. Trademarks expire soon after the mark becomes a generic term. Copyrights are more complex; generally, they expire in all countries except Guatemala, Mexico, Samoa and Colombia when all of the following conditions are satisfied:

The work was created and first published before January 1, 1923, or at least 95 years before January 1 of the current year, whichever is later.
The last surviving author died at least 70 years before January 1 of the current year.
No Berne Convention signatory has passed a perpetual copyright on the work.

Neither the United States nor the European Union has passed a copyright term extension since these conditions were last updated. (This must be a condition because the exact numbers in the other conditions depend on the state of the law at any given moment.)


Copyrights do expire, but they can be repurchased and auctioned off. Michael Jackson actually owns a huge share of the Beatles Catalogue.

For music, creation copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author. (last author for groups)
So, any classical music (the music itself) is now public domain and free to use, however, using a particular recording of a composition requires a license from a copyright agency. (redistribution of a piece is still a violation of the recording performance production copyright that they have on top of the creation copyright.) In Canada this agency is SOCAN, in USA its ASCAP or BMI, elsewhere I’m not too sure about. And, these copyrights (recording performance/distribution) can be renewed so that the recordings themselves never become public domain, just the music - intellectual property.
So the Beatles tunes are a long way off from being public domain, and we will probably never see a time when their recordings of the music will be free to use and distribute.

Hooray for rockstar skool., errr, i mean my old college…=]

dr.ew has got it nailed - same for UK.

You can use sheet music and play/record the music yourself (as long as the composer has been dead for over 70 years - Bach and Beethoven fit into this category) and you will have your own copyright protected version.

You cannot use Berlin Philharmonic’s recording of the same piece unless you have paid an annual licence to the PRS (Performing Rights Society) if in the UK.

does this paying copyright royalty only apply to classical music? Aren’t there many sites out there who use a full-length track in their website :huh:
also, what if you were to recreate that piece on your own, are you then free to do what you want with it?

Sites that use full-length tracks either have permission from the copyright holders or are doing it without permission, thus illegally.

hsadan - if the composer of the music has been dead for more than 75 years (please note correction - it’s not 70) then you can recreate the music; you in fact own the copyright to your new version (not the music itself - just your version of it).

If you recreate music where the composer is still alive (or has been dead less than 75 years) and you broadcast it in any way, then you will be infringing copyright laws as described under the provision of the Berne Convention, supplemented in 1914.

Bumping this so the person with a similar topic can see the wisdom contained here.

ofcourse if someone was making movies in the late 18-hundreds but didn’t die until the 40’s, i don’t think you’re going to have to worry yourself too much about someone claiming copyright infringement…

But for the classic music the original poster (way back when) was mentioning, you can re-compose it exactly as it was and not be in any danger.