Please obey the copyright laws of your country. Studio KonKon does not assume any sort of legal responsibility or liability for the consequences of downloading files that are not in the public domain in your country. Studio KonKon is not a lawyer, information we provide should not be taken too seriously. Please do your own research first or consult a lawyer if unsure.
When we (Studio KonKon) decide to re-score a particular score (Sheet Music), we ask our selves some questions:
- Is the composer and anyone else involved in the work still alive and if not, for how long?
- Have copyright laws changed in the originating country?
- Was the work Published in or before 1924?
- Is it an original, first edition or an arrangement?
- Has it been re-printed or re-published?
- Does the work have copyright restored?
Please note, Studio KonKon (“we”, “us” or “our”) DOES NOT use already existing audio recordings. All sound Recordings are created and performed by Studio KonKon and therefor property of Studio KonKon and are copyright protected.
Q: Is the composer and anyone else involved in the work still alive and if not, for how long?
Most countries including the UK and EU have a 70 pma; This is: “has the composer or anyone involved in the work been dead for 70 years or more?” If so, it is in Public Domain in those territories unless copyright has been renewed.
Some countries, for example, Japan, have a 50 pma, which is much shorter. Japan is part of the Berne convention since 1899 meaning copyright law is in sync with most other international regulations. This is to say, if it’s in Public Domain in Japan, then it is also in Public Domain in other territories that follow the ROST (Rule of the Shorter Term).
E.g: Copyright is expired in Japan since the composer died in 1952, however, in the UK and EU, it is not in Public Domain until 2022.
That would have been the case but because the work is in Public Domain in it’s originating country (Japan), it is also in Public Domain in the UK, EU, possibly the USA and many other territories.
Please beware though, some countries laws have a 100pma and many works in the USA have had renewed copyright status preventing works entering Public Domain just yet.
Q: Have copyright laws changed in the originating country?
If copyright laws in the originating country have changed, it’s likely many Public Domain works are no longer Public Domain in other countries.
I used Japan as an example in the previous question for this reason:
Copyright of works used to expire 50 years after the author’s death. In 2004, Japan extended the copyright term to 70 years for cinematographic works. On 30th December 2018, the 70 year term was applied to all works.
This may cause problems as many Public Domain works will have re-entered Copyright Status. The exception for Japan however, any works that had already entered Public Domain will remain in Public Domain unless the publisher re-publishes the work.
Take note that works published before 1953 in Japan are now public domain. Works published in and before 1970 are under Copyright Protection and extended until 38 years after the original copyright holder’s death.
Different nations have different rules. Another example is in the Soviet Union, all the music published before 1973 used to be in the public domain in the US. However, that changed and now works by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and many others have had their copyrights restored.
Please do your own research first or consult a lawyer if unsure. The information above may have changed since its last update date and other nations have different rules.
Q: Was the work Published in or before 1924?
In the US, works enter Public Domain regardless of the author’s death. This is worth noting as the US doesn’t generally follow the originating countries copyright laws.
E.g: All works by Gustav Holst is in Public domain since 2004. However, this does not apply to the US. Many of Gustav Holst’s work are still protected by copyright despite Gustav Holst been British and his works are in Public Domain in the UK since 2004.
This causes problems. Even though you may live in a country and be a citizen such as the UK and have never lived or been a citizen of the US, you are still infringing copyright laws of the US. This can be confusing and question why the US would take you to court or sue you for it as it’s use of Public Domain outside of the US.
For this reason, Studio KonKon may upload only very limited content and most likely no score at all due to the selfishness of the US. (I am a British citizen living in the UK where the British composer Holst’s works are Public Domain but is taken down and threatened by the US of infringing copyright.)
This means focusing more on works published before 1924 just to be on the safe side, unfortunately. Also, making sure works were not re-published or renewed after 1924 putting them back under renewed Copyright Protection in the US.
It’s not just us but other organisations having issues too, such the site IMSLP.org Unfortunately, I don’t have the means to take issues to court.
For example: Many Public Domain Japanese Folk songs are copyright protected in the US. Where the royalties actually go is unknown. It’s unfair that big companies claim revenue from something that doesn’t belong to them simply because of US copyright law.
So, why 1924 in the USA?
In the US, due to an amendment on copyright law on June 26 1992, the copyright term was divided between a 28-year original term and a 67-year renewal term. End of renewal is on December 31st of the 28th year. This basically gives us 96 years. (Year 2020 minus 96 years equals 1924)
Copyright expiration is based on the original publication or registration. Anything (re)published or (re)registered after 1924 is copyrighted but not works published or registered before.
Please do your own research first or consult a lawyer if unsure. The information above may have changed since its last update date or may no longer be accurate.
Q: Is it an original, first edition or an arrangement?
Here at Studio KonKon, we aim to re-score only original and first editions. Mainly, for copyright reasons. We generally will not re-score any works in Creative Commons unless the author has given us permission. However, we may have still done a few but are subject to change at any time.
Just because something is in Creative Commons doesn’t mean it will always be free to use or be legal. The author of a work has the rights to his/her works and can revoke the Creative Commons at any time regardless or what the Creative Commons guidelines state.
Many works are also illegally or falsely assigned a Creative Commons.
Most arrangements and transcription are either copyright protected or in Creative Commons. They are mostly all published or re-published after 1924 and may be controlled by government(s), heir(s) of the author and/or other copyright laws.
Q: Has it been re-printed or re-published?
Reprints or republications of exact copies of Public Domain works cannot be copyrighted. Many works will claim to have or display a copyright date. However, these are false and infringing of Public Domain works.
Only arrangements, anything that contains at least a minimal amount of creativity or uniqueness and are not copies from another source can be copyrighted.
- Adding original lyrics (e.g: to Chopin’s Etude Op.25 No. 5)
- Adapting the melody and rhythms of a piece or song to another musical style (E.g: Baroque to Jazz)
- Creating an orchestration of a work originally composed for piano.
- Creating a piano reduction of a work originally composed for other instrument. (E.g: Orchestra or Wind Ensemble)
In the above list, while the new material of these works are protected by copyright, the original works themselves would remain in the public domain. (i.e: only the original lyrics to Chopin’s Etude Op.25 No. 5 are copyright, Chopin’s Etude Op.25 No. 5 remains Public Domain and free to use).
New editions or publications of public domain music that add new work such as historical information about the music, composer, time period or arrangements are copyright protected. Yet again, only the new material of these works are protected by copyright, the original works themselves would remain in the public domain.
Not all changes made to public domain music can be copyright protected.
many reprints of public domain music where the publisher claims copyright are invalid and fraudulent. Reprints of an exact copy are not a creative nor do they add anything new.
As an example, here is a list of a few things that cannot be copyright protected:
- Transposition one key to another or changing a clef, other symbols or markings of an old piece written in an obsolete markup with modern notation.
- Adding Chord charts or symbols.
- Fingering, bowing notations or other similar directions.
- Basic harmonies or slight changes to the melody that are either obvious or minimal.
- Dynamic markings or other performance directions (i.e cresc., rit., L.H, slurs, pizz., a3 etc…) that are obvious or typical and add no new meaning or creativity.
- Changing the typeface, font size, font weight, text decoration (underline, superscript etc.), paper size, staff size, line count, page / system / bar numbers, instrument names, translations etc.
All copyrightable works of Public Domain music MUST add originality, add new meaning and minimally creative. Simply copying works, changing its layout or adding anything obvious, typical, basic or simple does not qualify as new work.
Q: Does the work have copyright restored?
Copyright restoration of foreign works can be an issue… Yet again with the US.
This happens with works from other countries outside the US that were in public domain but didn’t comply with US law, have copyright renewal with the US or didn’t have a copyright notice.
Copyright restoration is automatic and there is no list of restored works that you can consult. Nothing needs to be filed. If the work was eligible, then it’s automatically copyright protected. As of 1996, these works were removed from the US public domain and copyright owners can sue others for infringement.
What is eligible for automatic restoration?
- The work was in the public domain in the US because the work did not comply with US law.
- The work was not published in the US within 30 days of its first publication.
- The work was still protected by copyright in its originating country as of 1996.
- The author had been a citizen or resident of a country that had copyright relations with the US (E.g: Berne Convention).
The US copyright term for works published before 1978, lasts for 95 years from the year of first publication. For example: A work published in the UK in 1930 and author who died in 1940 without copyright notice or renewal in the US will automatically be restored and not expire until 2025 regardless of the 70pma, been Public Domain in the UK since 2010. (Where the royalties actually go is unknown. Likely some 3rd party claiming revenue from something that doesn’t belong to them.)
What is in Public Domain then?
- Works first published outside the US before 1891
- Works first published outside the US that have no copyright relations with the US.
- Works published in the US within 30 days of being published outside the US.
Please do your own research first or consult a lawyer if unsure. The information above may have changed since its last update date or may not be accurate.
Document Updated: 2020, September 8th