IMSLP:Copyright Reviewers


This page is designed for users with Copyright Review Privileges. This page describes the procedure and the guideline to be followed in the process of file tagging.


Copyright reviewers are expected to do a reasonable amount of lookup into a publication's background.

The tag procedure can be started by clicking on the copyright status link of a file. Follow directions described on that page and the consensus guideline described below. It is important to remember that V or C will release the file for access to visitors. In non-standard cases, provide arguments for your tag in the comments box. In any doubt, leave the file U for the country in question.

Tags can be listed using the Special:IMSLPTagFinder///////.


Wait a minimum of 1 hour before tagging any new uploads of a fellow CR, as a general rule.


Copyright terms fall into three general categories: a) life-plus-50 (50pma), b) life-plus-70 (70pma), and c) publication date-plus-term. The US law applies category "c" for all works published before 1978, while most other countries employ "a" or "b" for most works, reserving "c" for special cases (like urtext editions). IMSLP accordingly employs a three-tiered tagging system for copyright status: a) Canada (where IMSLP is hosted) and the 50pma countries, b) USA (where most visitors to IMSLP are located), and c) the EU and other 70pma countries.

1. Identify publication data

  • Elementary data pertain to composers, librettists, orchestrators, arrangers or transcribers, and editors. In all cases except editors of urtext publications, the death date of all creators is absolutely essential in determining copyright status for most countries, whose term length is determined by the death date of the last surviving contributor to the work in question.
  • Date and place of publication, along with all associated publisher info, are important - especially for determining status in the US.
  • Try to identify country of origin, based on nationality of the author and place of first publication.
  • What is the extent and originality of editorial contributions? Is the edition under consideration a critical or urtext edition?
  • Is this edition a posthumous first publication? If so, the date of publication is very important.

2. Look up the copyright term in country of origin

The country of origin is determined, depending on local legislation, on the nationality of the author, or the place(s) of first publication. The Berne Treaty defines country of origin as country of first lawful publication. Country-specific information can be found in the Public Domain section, along with specific guidelines for determining whether a given edition is of an urtext or interpretative nature. Follow this guideline for country-specific legislation:

  • Urtext or Critical editions
UK, Germany: 25y, Italy: 20y, Other EU countries: up to 30y from publication if enabling legislation enacted in the country.
(Note: the EU copyright 93/98 and 2006/116/EC directives permit member states to impose a maximum term of 30 years, but does not mandate such a term.)
  • Publications from the Soviet era in Czech, Hungary, Poland (up through 1989)
    • Original works, orchestrations, arrangements or editions with significant original editorial contribution: 70y p.m.a.
    • Urtext or Critical editions: 25y from publication
    • No editor given: PD ? - check to see if it's part of a collection or series
  • Publications from the former USSR (up through 1991)
    • Original works, orchestrations, arrangements or editions with significant original editorial contribution: 70y p.m.a.
      Unless the author died before 1943, in which case PD.
    • Urtext or Critical editions: PD
    • No editor given: PD ? - check to see if it's part of a collection or series

3. Look up the copyright terms in the three main categories

  • Canada:
Follows life-plus-50 term. The term for posthumous publications can be 50 years from publication, subject to certain exemptions. The country of origin is here based solely on the nationality of the author, though Berne's definition of country of origin (country of first lawful publication) might apply for works of non-Canadian authors. Critical editions are generally regarded as lacking sufficient originality to qualify for copyright protection. IMSLP applies as voluntary 25-year term to such editions for Canada, based upon Germany's term.
  • EU:
Works published outside the EU: follows the rule of shorter term, except if bilateral treaties exist (see them here).
Works published in countries of the EU: the EU Copyright Directive needs to be followed!
  • US:
Works first published before 1928 are public domain. No exceptions.
Works first published after 1927 that are in public domain in the country of origin on the date of TRIPS entry (*see these entry dates here), and published without compliance with US formalities, are in public domain in the U.S. Urtext works are no exception - if they're reprinted in the USA, it's safe to assume they're public domain. Ex-Soviet publishers generally failed to file copyright in the USA. If unsure, tag U*. To research a pre-1951 publication's US copyright renewal status, go to our Catalog of Copyright Entries page. From there, you will find a series of links to scanned volumes of the Catalog of Copyright Entries which are hosted at the Internet Archive. More volumes are gradually being added so that one should eventually be able to search for any music score published between 1928 and 1950. For items published from 1951 through 1963, go to the Copyright Office's search page.


  1. Typesets are computer re-engravings of certain editions. The work that has been re-engraved should be in public domain too. In most cases, you will not need to identify the source publication. This is not a big problem, as the responsibility lies with the typesetter. In some cases the typeset is a new or a critical edition made by the typesetter.
  2. Look for the name of typesetter. Is there one on the score? Is it the uploader? Contact them, and invite them to make theirself public on their user page. 99% of the typesetters are active on Mutopia or WIMA.
  3. Typesets are for practical purposes regarded as new editions, even if there is no editorial addition by the typesetter. The typesetter should therefore be listed as the editor, even if it is merely a re-engraving of an older edition. By virtue of the fact that the music was entered into a computer notation program, the person doing it becomes an editor since it is impossible to exactly duplicate a plate engraving with notational programs like Finale, Sibelius, Lilypond, and others.
  4. If the typeset originated at Mutopia or a similar site, that site should be listed as publisher, since making a file available for distribution - even if at no charge - constitutes "publication" according to the legal definition of the term in many countries, including Canada and the USA. Otherwise, the typesetter/editor should be listed as publisher.
  5. If details are known, and the typesetter grants permission to distribute his/her scores, tag N!/N!/N!
  6. If nothing is known, ask the uploader if s/he has permission, and wait 24 hours for a confirmation. If none is given after that time, delete the file (or mark it for deletion if you are not a sysop).

Verified vs. Checked

The most common usages of the tag C are as follows:


  1. Date of death of author unknown, but potentially recent enough to cause copyright issues. Assuming a lifespan of about 80 years, a publication with contributions from any person born after ca.1880 with an unknown death date should be tagged as C. Reviewers should keep in mind that this applies to arrangers, editors (non-urtext), librettists, translators and other contributors along with composers.
  2. Urtext editions. According to at least one legal opinion, urtext editions do not meet the 'threshold of originality' required for copyright protection in Canada. This is not explicitly stated in Canada's copyright laws, though, which is why it should be tagged as C* when the editor is still living or died less than 50 years ago.
  3. Posthumous Publications less than 50 years. If a work was first published less than 50 years ago, it may not be subject to a 50-year term of copyright from date of publication if it was publicly performed or otherwise "delivered" (a studio broadcast, for example) during the composer's lifetime. If it is uncertain but probable that this was the case, C should be used.


  1. Publication without proper copyright notice. Before 1978, works lacking a notice or issued with a defective notice were automatically injected into the public domain on being offered for distribution in the USA. If they were still under copyright in their country of origin on 1 January 1996, an NIE could have been filed to "restore" the copyright to a full term. Items published without notice between 1978 and 1988 could also have entered the US public domain if corrective measures were not taken. Only tag as V if there is no possible way it could have been restored to copyright, or has been confirmed to be PD through other means; otherwise, tag as C.
  2. Apparent lack of registration and/or renewal with the US Copyright Office for editions with proper notices before 1964 (and after 1927). Registration was actually a requirement of renewal, so sometimes one encounters a registration in the same year as the renewal (the year of publication will probably be correct in the registration though).
  3. For recordings issued before 1972, US copyright may not apply, though certain local statutes may protect all recordings until 2067.


  1. Date of death of an author (including arrangers, editors, translators and librettists) is unknown, but potentially recent enough to cause copyright issues. Assuming a lifespan of about 80 years, a publication with contributions by any person born after ca.1860 with an unknown death date should be tagged as C.
  2. Unpublished manuscripts. The EU employs an editio princeps term of 25 years from first publication for any previously unpublished work, even those of authors dead well over 70 years. For manuscripts where the date of first publication (in any format) cannot be determined, the best tag to use is C.
  3. Rule of the Shorter Term. Works by authors who died less than 70 years ago but are public domain in the country of origin (=country of publication) are public domain under EU statutes. However, some EU countries may have bilateral treaties (for instance, with the US) that would make the work in question under copyright. Whenever RoST becomes a factor in determining EU copyright status, tag as C.
  4. Urtext editions first published between 25 and 30 years ago. While the longest term for urtext editions presently employed is 25 years (Germany and UK), the EU copyright directive 2006/116/EC allows member states to protect such editions for a maximum term of 30 years from lawful publication. As EU member states are free to establish terms for this type of edition at any time, the best course of action for items published between 25 and 30 years ago is to employ the C* tag.

See also

Members and Further Questions

Please direct questions related to copyright review to the head reviewer, Carolus.
Members of the team are listed here.
The test is located here.