List of Public Domain Songs
The Public Domain Information Project
The Public Domain Information Project was started in 1986 by Marji Hazen of Ashland, Ohio. Marji was particularly interested in folk music and began making a list of public domain folk songs. Over the years, the list expanded to include any PD music and Marji collected nearly 10,000 PD songs from libraries, used book stores, folk publications, and just about any other published source imaginable.
After the GATT Treaty and 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act added new complexities to public domain research, Marji took the PD Info website off of the web. Our little recording studio in Atlanta had come to depend so much on Marji's research that we flew up to Ohio to beg her to continue with PD Info. Marji's solution was for us to take over her Public Domain Information Project. So in early 1999 Haven Sound agreed to take over PD Info and keep it alive and growing.
While most of Marji's list of public domain songs was taken from excellent academic sources, she did not have the resources to collect true 1922 or earlier PD publications to actually prove the songs on her list were in the public domain. So Haven Sound began building a library. If something had a copyright date of 1922 or earlier and contained sheet music, we added it to our library. Little by little we added song books, school books, children's books, hymnals, and folk song books, along with stacks and stacks of sheet music. Then the fun really began . . . we had to catalog all of the songs, build a database, and learn enough about web programming to share our library with the world.
We quickly learned that many people not only needed public domain music information, but also sound recordings. So we convinced the music publishers that licensed royalty free music for our studio to let us license their tracks from the PD Info website. Best of all, every royalty free music track we licensed paid for even more additions to our public domain music library. All we had to do was get one true PD copy of a song, and we could share the PD proof with anyone in the world. We are thrilled to provide a copy of any PD Sheet Music in our library at our reproduction cost.
If you're looking for information on using public domain music, this is the place to start your search. The quick rule of thumb is that music or lyrics written and published in the United States in 1922 or earlier are public domain in the USA. It is our goal to teach you how to understand and fully respect legal copyright protection, yet identify and freely use music that is truly in the public domain.
BE CAREFUL . . . You must understand how to search and identify what is in the Public Domain. If you are going to use PD music commercially it is imperative that you have an attorney or rights clearance company verify your research if you have any uncertainties whatsoever about the public domain status of the works you plan to use. If you do not obtain legitimate documentation BEFORE you use a song--even if it is truly Public Domain--you may end up in quite expensive hot water. So learn the rules and enjoy your search. There are centuries of musical grand jewels that are yours to use--just for doing careful research.
Information on this site deals exclusively with music and lyrics where copyright protection has expired. Works in the public domain due to litigation, idiosyncrasies of the copyright law, or other special circumstances should be used only with the advice of an attorney.
From its beginning, the goal of the Public Domain Information Project has been a sincere desire to fully respect legal copyright protection, yet make music that is truly public domain freely available to the public. We welcome your comments, suggestions, and PD music needs. We frequently update this web site based on your input and questions. If you find errors either in content or web programming, please let us know and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible.
If your project needs music, The Public Domain Information Project welcomes you.