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I am an amateur musician and I would like to do some mixage (partial exploitation, such as a melody) or remix of some Jazz oldies and publish them in Youtube.

I don't earn money from this (no video monetizing) so I don't envisage to spend money (on copyright), except on the Digital Audio Workstation (software for mixing).

Are there conditions? What are they if any? Ex: The minimum age of a music ? Partial exploitation..?

Thank you

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  • What is DAW? How old is the music you are wanting to make use of? Oct 5, 2018 at 15:36
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    FWIW, if you performed it yourself, the accepted fair use norms in the jazz genre and the social norm against suing for infringement in that genre are stronger than in most other areas of copyright protection.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 16, 2022 at 18:25
  • @ohwilleke within music specifically isn't there an exemption for original performance as well?
    – Michael
    Aug 17, 2022 at 4:25
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    @Michael It isn't really an "exemption", it is a right to cover someone else's song for a government imposed royalty if no agreement can be reached to license the performance.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 17, 2022 at 17:12

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In the United States, this depends entirely on the form the music is in. Music in written form (eg. sheet music) follows the same copyright rules as any other written work, the most common rules being:

  • Unconditionally in the public domain if published prior to 1927 (this date rises each January 1).
  • In the public domain if published prior to 1964 without the copyright being renewed.
  • In the public domain if published prior to 1978 without a copyright notice.
  • In the public domain if published prior to 1 March 1979 without either a copyright notice or registration.
  • Otherwise, it's probably copyrighted (but there are exceptions), and you can only use it if your use is covered by fair use.

Sound recordings (often described in the law as "phonorecords") follow a very different set of rules. Prior to 1972, sound recordings couldn't be copyrighted at the federal level; instead, they were covered by a patchwork of state-level copyright laws. In 2018, these laws were replaced by the federal CLASSICS Act, which provided a different set of rules:

  • In the public domain if published prior to 1923.
  • Will be in the public domain 100 years after publication if published prior to 1947.
  • Will be in the public domain 110 years after publication if published after 1946 but prior to 1957.
  • Will be in the public domain on 15 February 2067 if published after 1956 but prior to 15 February 1972.
  • If published on or after 15 February 1972, follows the same rules as written works.
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The US Copyright Office has a PDF on researching copyright status. The part on older works starts on page 6. It goes into more detail than you probably want, and this chart is going to be a lot easier to use. Anything published before 1923 is public domain, and from then to 1977 it's public domain unless it has a valid copyright notice.

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As can be seen in This posting on music copyright from OSU the copyright status under US law will depend on when the work was published. Works published before 1923 are generally in the public domain. (The relevant date changes every yer, as of 2022 it is 1927. See this chart for more detail.) Works published in or after 1927 but before 1964 will be under copyright unless the copyright was not renewed properly. Determining if a copyright was renewed is more than a bit tricky, and getting it wrong can expose a reuser to a lawsuit. work published in or after 1964 did not need to have the copyright renewed.

Works published before 1989 without a proper copyright notice may have entered the public domain, but again determining if this applies can be complicated and is at your own risk.

Note that the provisions on copyright renewal and copyright notice will often not apply if any author or co-author is not a US resident, or if the work was first published outside the US.

A brief musical quotation, or sampling or the like may constitute "fair use" under US law, but this can also be complex, and depends on the very specific facts of the case. That the use is not for profit does not automatically make it "fair use", although it may help a case for fair use.

If you can obtain permission from the copyright holder, this will remove all doubt and risk, and permission may be available for no more than a proper acknowledgement, depending on the work involved and how much you want to use.

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    The answer should probably be updated to reflect the fact that 95-year-old works have started entering the public domain, so US works with a copyright year of 1927 or earlier are all in the public domain, and on January 1, 2023 works with a copyright year of 1928 will enter the public doman.
    – supercat
    Aug 16, 2022 at 17:11
  • @supercat Update done. Aug 16, 2022 at 17:21
  • This answer absolutely needs to distinguish sound recordings from other forms of music (eg. sheet music).
    – Mark
    Aug 16, 2022 at 18:03

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