In Part 1, we discussed that music works created before 1923 are now classified as being in the public domain. That classification applies only under U.S. copyright law. When works fall into this classification, the public is free to use these music works. But there are some caveats to consider. The public domain is an evolving universe of creative works. To clarify, although music created before 1923 is in fact in the public domain, the distinction is only the original music has gone into the public domain. When a new musical work is created from a pre-existing musical work, a new copyright is created, also known as a derivative copyright, As a result, arrangements of original music that is in the public domain, may not have gone into the public domain. So any musical arrangement made after 1923 would still enjoy copyright protection applying the applicable copyright rules.
Was the arrangement made after 1923 and before 1978?
Was the arrangement made after 1978?
Another consideration is that often pubic domain works are compiled/edited into a variety collections or compilations or are recorded as a part of a program, CD, or album. The individuals songs used may be in the public domain, but the newly created music products are derivatives of the original music that is in the pubic domain - meaning they are protected by the applicable copyright rules. NOTE: No Sound Recordings in the U.S. are in the public domain due to complex issues.
To enjoy the full benefits of works in the public domain, simply remember these key takeaways:
Make sure that your desired song to arrange is in the public domain. There is no international copyright law. For more thorough information and research on your particular goals, go to PDinfo.com.
Create your own derivative work with an arrangement that is uniquely yours.