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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: at Johns Hopkins University's Eisenhower Library is a collection of about 20,000 items of popular music from 1700s to 1922. All currently available downloads are PD.

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, 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, Berkley.

Loeb Music Library at Harvard University has a music index with over 30,000 titles from 1560-c1830. These are, of course, ALL in public domain.

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

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 not all their music is public domain, but the annotations are quite clear as to what is public domain and what is copyrighted.   Some big names in the music business have given permission for their catalogs to appear on the Digital Tradition, so it'll be well worth your time to browse the titles.

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.

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 Cyber Hymnal 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 has a wonderful royalty free music library at reasonable prices that you can Download or purchase on CD/DVD 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.  Give Marty a call at 1-800-387-3030 Ext 230 and he will fix you up with exactly the royalty-free recordings you need for your project.

PD Film and Video

Internet Archive has film and video selections for free download. Do be VERY care as not all of their selections are 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

Benedict O'Mahoney is a full time copyright lawyer who also has an interest in the public domain.

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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