Using Copyrighted and Library Content

Find out how you can legally and ethically use copyrighted and library content in your academic research, instruction, essays & writings, and creative projects. Legal disclaimer: this copyright guide is meant for informational & educational purposes only.

Library Research Guide

Public Domain Music


This page will introduce you to how to incorporate music in your videos by using music in the public domain. This is the first subpage and first step to using music in videos in a legal and ethical manner..

Finding & Using Public Domain Music

If you can, find musical compositions and sound recordings in the public domain.

  • There are two separate copyrights for music:
    • Musical compositions (lyrics, sheet music, musical arrangements, etc.)
      • This copyright belongs equally to the composer(s) and/or songwriter(s).
    • Sound recordings (MP3s, CDs, Records, WAVs)
      • This copyright belongs equally to the performer(s) and recording artist(s).

Unfortunately, the large majority of sound recordings will not enter the public domain until 2067!

Happy Birthday text with a guitar and music notes

Image courtesy of ArtsyBee, CC0.

However, if you're musically inclined, you can find musical compositions in the public domain (i.e., they were composed before 1923) and then perform and record them yourself.

  • For example, the song "Happy Birthday" is in the public domain, but there are no sound recordings of "Happy Birthday" in the public domain. Therefore, if you wanted to use Happy Birthday in your video, you would have to make a new recording.
  • There are sound recordings that have been dedicated to the public domain. Please see the next page on Creative Commons Licensing.

The public domain page on the K-State copyright website covers information on what the public domain is and how long copyright terms last, and resources for determining copyright status of works and for finding works in the public domain.