Classical Music and Copyright Laws: Can You Use Them for Social Media?


Classical music is known for one thing: it was created in the days of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven and their contemporaries, in which so many instrumental, chamber, orchestral and operatic forms that we hear today have become established.

To give you an exact year, classical music is music made from the 1000s in the early medieval period to the early 1900s, before the first world war, by Gramophone. However, common belief states that classical music spans from the Baroque period of the 17th century to the early 1900s.

However, could you use them for your social media posts, YouTube videos, and other similar content?

Classical Music Copyright Laws

The answer is not so simple. According to United States Copyright Office, the law automatically protects a work created and fixed in a tangible medium of expression on or after January 1, 1978, from its creation and for a further 70 years after its original author has perished. Meanwhile, for works made for hire and anonymous and pseudonymous works, the law protects their copyright for 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. .

If that period ends and no one reclaims copyright protection for that tangible medium, it passes into the public domain, where that medium will be free to use by the public.

Using a piece of classical music while protected by copyright laws is a crime, and the government will demand a fine or jail time for the violation, or in most cases, the immediate deletion of the offending content.

However, classical music was made before 1978, centuries even. Surely that means they’re fair when it comes to using them on social media, right?

This is unfortunately not the case.

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Classical music, like any piece of music of any other genre, still falls under copyright law, according to audio network. However, this does not cover the most famous classical music pieces created decades ago. These are the only pieces of classical music that are not protected by copyright law.

Also, recent recordings, arrangements and performances of classical music pieces are not part of the public domain, while their performers own the copyrights to their interpretation. This particular disclaimer is important, because the ones we usually hear in movies, TV, and other online content come from these artists.

If you were able to go back in time, obtain an audio recording of Beethoven playing “Moonlight Sonata”, return to the present, and prove that the audio recording you have is from Beethoven, then you are free from copyright law. author. However, if you used the audio recording of a famous performer playing “Moonlight Sonata”, then you will need to ask that performer for permission to use their music, according to musician wave.

Classical Music Pieces in the Public Domain

That said, there are many popular classical composers whose work is already in the public domain. These include works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi. Their compositions are free to use because they died centuries ago.

You may have heard their music through film, especially in the case of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” which was popularized by the helicopter scene in the movie “Apocalypse Now.”

However, to use the music of any of these composers, you will need to find a royalty-free version of their music that you can use on social media or any content-sharing platform.

Being royalty-free means that you can use a particular piece of media for free without any opposition from its creator.

But if you want to use a particular piece of music from your favorite classical performer, you’ll need to ask them for permission, as discussed in our previous article on copyright notices.

Related Article: Tips to Avoid a Copyright Infringement Claim on YouTube


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