When Does Music Become Public Domain ?
Creating music is as much of aesthetic skill as writing books. Therefore, this area of creativity also needs to be protected from duplication and originality needs to be given its due credit.
The laws of copyright encompassing literary work also cover music and lyrics.The guidelines of copyright law state that all music and lyrics created before the year 1923 fall under public domain, and are open for free usage without any legal restrictions. Music produced between 1923 and 1964 is protected initially for 28 years, and for another 67 years on renewal of rights as per the desire of the owner. In case, the owner or creator does not renew the copyrights, the music or lyrics come into public domain.
The requirement for renewal of copyrights is not applicable to music created between 1964 and 1977. After the expiry of the initial 28 years of protection, the copyrights are automatically renewed for another 67 years. Thus, work produced in this time frame is protected for a cumulative time of 95 years, making it possible even for the first piece of music in this time frame to enter into public domain only in the year 2059. As for work produced after January 1, 1978, the copyrights are valid for the entire lifetime of the creator and an additional 70 years after his or her demise.
These terms and conditions are valid only for music and lyrics. The rules of copyright law vary in the case of sound recordings. As mentioned earlier, music and lyrics created before 1964 need a renewal of copyrights to be protected, in absence of which the work enters into public domain. This is not true for sound recordings. Fixed recordings pertaining to the period before 1964 with non-renewed copyrights may also not be in public domain. As per the federal copyright laws, fixed sound recordings created before February 15, 1972 are safeguarded against plagiarism till February 15, 2067. The rule of protection varies for sound recordings created after February 15, 1972. Many sound recordings are protected until the year 2048 with slight deviations in accordance to individual cases.
There is disparity in the copyright laws for music from one country to another. There is no uniform code for the same that is internationally accepted and enforced.
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