Copyright Free Piano Sheet Music
The question of what sheet music is copyright free and what is copyright protected is often one for hot debate! Many people assume wrongly that if it is a folk song, then it must be copyright free. Although it is true that in general, old songs are copyright free, many traditional songs such as ‘ride on” and ‘Song For Ireland’ are copyright protected. Puff The Magic Dragon written by Peter, Paul & Mary is copyright protected and the copyright for sheet music in the UK is handled by Faber Publishing.
According to the Berne Convention, songs are protected by copyright for 50 years after the death of the author or composer (or the last living composer if it was co-written by several composers). Different countries can apply their own laws to amend this, for example but the UK law extends this further to 70 years. After this, the songs are considered to be public domain and can be used without restriction.
Occasionally, there is an exception to the rule, for example with Peter Pan, which was composed by J M Barrie, which was due to expire in 1987, but which was extended by an amendment to 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act so that the copyright is extended indefinitely in the UK. The reason for this is to provide ongoing royalty payments to the Great Ormond Street Hospital charity.
A common misconception is that ‘copyright free’ song sheets can be obtained ‘free of charge’. Arrangers and publishers of this music often incur costs in creating and publishing the music which means that they need to charge for the sheet music.