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Is all the music on The Violin Site free?

Yes, music on The Violin Site comes from the Mutopia project and may be downloaded, printed, copied, distributed, modified, performed and recorded, without payment. All music is either in the public domain, released under the MutopiaBSD licence, or released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

How is it legal to copy the works of Bach, Mozart etc?

Copyright law gives authors of creative works the right to restrict the reproduction of those works, and to collect royalty fees. For example, a poet may restrict photocopying and public performances of his poems, and charge a fee for prints and performances.

After some time - generally, 70 years after the death of the author - the copyright expires and the work goes into the public domain, which means that all restrictions are lifted. You may copy, perform and modify the work as much as you like.

This means that the creative work of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Lizst, Chopin and many other classical composers is in the public domain, because the composers died more than 70 years ago.

So why can't I copy sheet music that I've bought?

When an editor (or arranger, or typesetter) makes changes to a composer's music, the edition he creates is a "derived work". The editor then has the right to restrict the reproduction of this edition, as well as the composer. It is not until both the composer and the editor have been dead for 70 years that the copyright on the edition expires and the restrictions on the edition are lifted. Works published after 1922 in the USA may be subject to additional restrictions.

This is why you may not normally make copies of the sheet music which you buy from a shop - the editor's copyright may not have expired yet, even if the composer's has. Note that you are not normally permitted to perform sheet music in public either - you usually need to pay extra royalties for this.

So the music on The Violin Site is typeset from old editions?

Yes, editions sufficiently old to be in the public domain. For example, our version of Handel's opera Giulio Cesare (HWV 17), was edited by Friedrich Chrysander. Handel died in 1759, and Chrysander died in 1901, so this edition is in the public domain, because both the composer and the editor died more than 70 years ago.

Our collection also contains a few pieces which are not typeset from old editions, but which may be copied for other reasons. For example, a living composer or editor can give permission for their music to be copied, waiving their right to collect royalty fees.
Are the laws the same in any country?

Most countries, including the USA and the EU countries, are signatories of the Berne Convention, an international agreement about copyright. The copyright laws in these countries are similar. Sometimes the duration of copyright is shorter, e.g. works enter the public domain 50 years after the death of the author, instead of 70 years. Works published after 1922 in the USA may be subject to additional restrictions, so music typeset from such editions is not accepted for the Mutopia archive.

Licence details

* Public Domain - Any music in the public domain is either entirely out of copyright, or has been placed in the public domain by the composer/arranger/editor. You can basically do what you like with this music - print it out, sell it, change it, distribute it, record it, and perform it, etc.
* MutopiaBSD - This licence is only slightly more restrictive. You can basically do what you like with the music, but there is a copyright message which must appear with any copies or derivative works of the music. The notice is as follows:
o Permission is hereby granted, without written agreement and without license or royalty fees, to use, copy, modify, distribute, perform and record this music and to distribute, perform and record modified versions of this music for any purpose, provided that the above copyright notice, this paragraph and the following disclaimer appear with all copies of this music, whatever the format of the copy, printed, audio or otherwise.

NB. This copyright message is too large to be printed on the bottom on the piece of music. Therefore, it must be distributed separately if you distribute music under the MutopiaBSD license. It is available for download here as a Postscript (.ps) file or here as a PDF (.pdf) file. These are suitable for printing out on either A4 or letter sized paper. For more information on printing out Postscript and PDF files, see the help page (neither of these files is gzipped).
* Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike - This licence says that you are free to copy, distribute, display and perform the work, make derivative works, and make commercial use of the work. You must, however, give the original author credit, and if you alter, transform, or build upon the work, you must distribute the resulting work under an identical licence. For more information, see the Creative Commons website at:
Music released under this licence on Mutopia is given the additional permission that attribution is not required in audio derivatives of the work.


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