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What does "public domain" mean?

Public domain music is not protected by copyright

Public domain music is music that is not protected by copyright. Music can be in the public domain if: 

  • the rights to it have expired
  • it was created before intellectual property laws
  • or it has been placed in the public domain by the artist

An example of public domain music is the Christmas song “Jingle Bells” which was written in 1857 by James Pierpont. You can find a list of music in the public domain on the Public Domain Information Project.

A composition is considered public domain in the United States if it was published before 1925.