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Public Domain Research

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Useful Links for Public Domain Music Research

Here is a listing of our favorite internet resources.  Never forget, however, that the real world still exists.  Whenever you need a specific song or a collection of public domain music, you can still go to your public library.  Your reference librarian can help you find the music you need, either in your own public library or by interlibrary loan.

Public Domain Sheet Music

The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins University's Eisenhower Library is a collection of about 20,000 items of popular music from the 1700s and later. All currently available downloads are PD.

Archive of Popular American Music, University of California at Los Angeles, UCLA Digital Library Program

Historic American Sheet Music Project (1850-1920), The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University provides access to digital images of  3042 pieces of 19th and early 20th century American sheet music.

Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1820-1860, American Memories, The Library of Congress.

Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870-1885, American Memories, The Library of Congress.

African American Sheet Music (1850-1920),  Brown University.

19th-Century American Sheet Music Digitization, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Music Library.

19th Century California Sheet Music University of California at Berkeley, Museum Informatics Project

Classical and Choral Public Domain Music

PD Info does not partciularly emphasize Classical Music or Choral Music as several authoratative Classical and Choral Music sites are on the web. But if you need a PD copy of a PD Classical or Choral work and cannot find one, we likely have a copy in our library or know where to find one. Search the sites below first, but feel free to call or email if you cannot find what you need.

Petrucci Music Library - IMSLP, Massive collection of downloadable Classical Sheet Music. Not all music at Petrucci is in the public domain in the USA: Do NOT forget that a true proof-of-public-domain sheet music source music have a copyright notice of 1926 or earlier.

Choral Public Domain Library, Nearly 30,000 sheet music publications of choral works. Not all music at Choral Public Domain Library is in the public domain in the USA: Do NOT forget that a true proof-of-public-domain sheet music source music have a copyright notice of 1926 or earlier

Public Domain Research Sites

The Library of Congress offers extensive music reference.

Digital Tradition (Mudcat Cafe) is one of the world's best folk music archives of songs and tunes.  You can search for that song you just can't find anywhere else. Note that this is a discussion site, so do not believe everything posted there. But you can quickly find what is generally known about a folk song and sometimes a reference to a sheet music publication. Mudcat frequently offers fantasic reseach information, but do be careful since not all the music discussions are about public domain music.

The Ballad Index Web Site offers detailed information on first publications and actual ages of "folk" ballads for those who need to know which folk songs are actually in the public domain.  "Folk" does not necessarily equate with "old", and about 75% of the most familiar folk songs are NOT in the public domain.

Ceolas: Celtic music everything including several tune books and an index in which you can identify which tunes are PD.

Loeb Music Library at Harvard University has a music index with over 30,000 titles from 1560-c1830. The sheet music is not available online, but this catalog can confirm the existence of a sheet music publication. Of course, ALL in public domain.

MIDI Music of Public Domain Songs

PD Music. Benjamin Robert Tubb has beautifully sequenced several hundred public domain songs. These MIDI files are incredibly well done and are a joy to the ears!  

The Net Hymnal, formerly Cyberhymnal, web site has lyrics and midi files for hundreds of hymns.  The author, date, and brief history of the hymn are frequently included.  Most of the hymns are in the public domain, but a few are included by permission from the copyright holder.  Be sure to carefully note the author, dates, and copyright information to determine the public domain status. 

Royalty Free Music

Music2Hues Logo Music2Hues has a wonderful royalty free music library at reasonable prices that you can Download right here at PD Info.  You can buy individual tracks, CD's, DVD's, or their entire library depending on your budget and needs.  We own this library and use it in our studio frequently.  They produce new tracks several times a year and we always marvel over the quality of their work.

Sound Ideas has long provided music and sound effects for major film studios like Universal and Warner Brothers.  Their music tracks are produced in state-of-the-art recording studios by professional musicians and sound engineers. 

The Music Revolution library features over 60,000 royalty-free tracks. The company specializes in non-pro licensing arrangements and publishes a Royalty Free Music Blog that provides thought leadership for the ever-changing world of content licensing.  

PD Film and Video

Internet Archive has film and video selections for free download. Do be VERY careful as many of their selections are NOT in the public domain. Internet Archive is a public nonprofit that was founded in 1966 to build an Internet Library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format.

Paid Public Domain Research

Public Domain Images Public Domain Images, located in  Washington, D.C. is a custom multimedia research bureau. Their per item research fee ranges from $35.00 and up.  They will research music, images, movie and video footage, or almost anything public domain. On their home page are a number of recent images they offer for free downloading. A clear audit trail has been established for each image and all are assuredly in the public domain.

Legal and Copyright

Thomas Legislative Information Pages in the Library of Congress web site provides information on all bills being considered in congress.  Search using terms as "copyright", "public domain", "intellectual property".

International Copyright

Berne Convention
World Trade Organization (WTO)
Copyright Association of Ireland

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