Copyright does not last forever. At some point in time all artistic works become free from copyright. Different types of creative works have differing rules governing when they become copyright-free. After this happens, the work will become known as being in the "public domain."
Where music is concerned, the period of time that it takes copyrighted music to become copyright free music is 100 years. This means that exactly 100 years after the date that a music track, song, album or whatever else was officially created, it becomes free from copyright. There is another rule however which people should be equally aware of. If 75 years has passed since the very first copyright protection notice was put in place over a piece of music, and if the Copyright Office believes the composer is no longer living, the track or song will become copyright free music immediately. So the easiest way to approach music copyright law is to assume something is free from copyright if the composer is dead, and the piece of music is over 75 years old.
In recent years, new laws were put in place in the US which extended the copyright restrictions on certain pieces of work resulting in the latest copyright date for a track to be deemed in the public domain or free from copyright is 1923. Some people make a business out of taking out of date works, such as songs from the 1920s, and the performing them or re-arranging them to their own style before applying for copyright on the song themselves. Obviously this can only be done if they make it their own via their re-arrangement, usually consisting of their voice, as this constitutes significant change to the original to enable them to brand it and copyright it as their own creative work.
By far the safest approach for artists, singers and musicians, producers or broadcasters all have an interest in copyright-free music from time to time, and by far the safest approach for them to take is to consult an experienced Copyright Lawyer. This is due to the fact that copyright law is not as clear cut, even though there are preset rulings on what dates can be used to determine the copyright on any specific piece of music. For example, there are a huge number of songs which were created long after the watershed year of 1923, but which are now deemed to be copyright-free music. Understanding the intricacies which enable such music to exist in the public domain is a job for a trained professional, especially when considering the potential costs of being sued for copyright infringement, or indeed being asked for royalty payments when you weren't expecting it! It is always best to be safe when you are in any way uncertain, so a small fee for a legal check on what you are doing is a wise precaution, and a cost-effective one in the long term.
In addition to lawyers, you can consult Rights Clearance Agencies instead, and these organizations can help clear up any uncertainties prior to using a track for a commercial artistic or media production project. The same advice would apply to those who may have found a track or a song which was composed or first recorded outside of the US. In these cases, the various international laws can make it a legal minefield for someone not well-versed in the subject, and again the Rights Clearance Agencies can clarify the exact position in the country of origin, ensuring you have total peace of mind when working with what you believe is copyright free music.
If all of the above sounds too complex or troublesome, there is an easier way to get hold of that peace of mind, while having the choice of hundreds of thousands of music tracks to use in your work. This option comes in the form of royalty-free music. Here at PrimaryElements.com we specialize in exactly this kind of music synchronization licensing. Synchronization in this case simply means that you will mix the music in timed-relation to other elements in a multi-media production, such as images, video or voice. We have a huge database of music and sound effects which can be used for any purpose, subject to the necessary licensing agreement. You can choose from the many samples available here on our site, and choose the licensing level which best fits your needs. Looking for a track to use as background music for your marketing gig? We have got you covered! Maybe you are looking for a mellow piece of music to play at a funeral, or a lively composition for a funny YouTube video, yes we've got you covered there also! Royalty-free music should not be confused with Copyright-free music, as the two things have some common ground but they are very different things. Royalty-free music simply means music where you buy the rights to use it and you don't have to pay royalties to the composer in the future, giving you total assurance of what it will cost your project and running no risks of any costly legal action being taken against you.
There is a more modern system in place these days which bucks the trend of old-fashioned musical copyright systems, this is called Creative Commons. With Creative Commons music, people can legally use some "rights reserved" tracks for free. It was created for composers and musicians who want to produce musical artwork for the masses, without any worries for the users as to whether they have legal rights to use it in a certain way or not. It is a very free and open category of music licensing enabling musicians to get their work out there in the public domain more widely and quickly, while enabling people to use it without fear of costs and legal issues cropping up. This is a great thing for music in general, as many budding artists and bands want their music to be heard, not necessarily bought in order for them to profit from it. It is artists like this which keep the true spirit of music alive and they should be applauded for it! For more information about Creative Commons music licensing please visit http://creativecommons.org/legalmusicforvideos.
Our advice for people considering using Copyright Free music is to tread very carefully, and if at all possible, choose something from a royalty free music library instead, so you are in absolutely no doubt about your rights and expectations. The fact that our royalty-free music also happens to be just awesome, well that's just a nice bonus!
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