People see the word free in a sentence and get all twitchy. Not everything is free and even if it is there is always a cost. Once again, I'm not a copyright lawyer but I am a nerd with a library tech certificate and I know how to use it.
Public Domain Music
Music that was under U.S. copyright protection that has expired is in the public domain. Users are free to use, re-mix, re-sell and re-interpret the work without further compensation to the creators or previous license owners.
For a multiplicity of reasons, commercial and popular sound recorded music will not enter the public domain until 2067. This includes very old works that should have entered the public domain but didn't due to "shenanigans" of a corporate legal nature; in my opinion.
Sheet music is different; you can find printed sheet music that is the public domain. If you or your computer can read music you can create your own version of the song. You cannot use another musician's sound recording of a public domain sheet music tune without permission.
For example; There are hundreds of recordings of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. You can find pre-1922 sheet music for his work. However a sound recording is a unique expression of the music. That expression can be copyrighted.
recording of the symphony is under copyright protection unless the musician has
intentionally placed it in the public domain.
Royalty Free Music
Royalty Free music is music that is still under copyright. You purchase a license to use the music under the conditions of the license. Some royalty free music can only be used in non-performance settings like elevators or a convention kiosk. Some license music can be used in web video but not in broadcast video.
Jewel Beat is a royalty free music service. They sell licenses to use their tunes. They also have a section of their web site where they have free attribution license music that you can download and use provided you provide a link back to the web site.
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