I'm considering using one of the following pieces of music for a commercial (advertisement of my book):

  1. Richard Wagner, Ride of the Valkyries
  2. Carl Orff, Carmina Burana, O Fortuna - Fortune plango vulnera
  3. Shostakovich, Symphony No. 5 - Finale
  4. Gustav Holst, The Planets - Mars, the Bringer of War

Which options do I have, in order to do it legally, provided that

  1. my product will be sold primarily via American Amazon store (hence, I must design the ad so that it complies with US laws) and
  2. I need the ability to legally remix the record (i. e. cut out pieces of it, make it shorter)


From my point of view, I can do in several ways:

  1. Purchase the rights from the performers (e. g. some orchestra) to use one of their records in a commercial.
  2. Sign a "work-for-hire" contract with a musician. He or she will play that piece of music and the rights for the record will belong to me.
  3. Use a record in public domain.

All these options theoretically give me the rights for the recording (audio version of the work). But I'm not sure if the copyright holders of the notes/score version of that music (e. g. relatives of R. Wagner, C. Orff, D. Shostakovich and G. Holst) can't sue me for copyright infringement (or do any other legal action).


1 Answer 1


Copyright expires 70 years after the original writer breaths his/her last breath, after that it becomes public domain. And all works published before 1923 are in the public domain in the US.

This means that the inheritors of the rights cannot sue you for infringement because there is nothing to infringe.

If the music is not in public domain you will need to contact the rights holders and negotiate the rights to use the music. This can also be a company that has the right to sublicense the content to others. This is often the way radios and DJs get the right for the music they play.

  • Just don't use copyrighted recordings or arrangements. You should be able to find royalty free recordings online for classical music.
    – Viktor
    Oct 30, 2015 at 15:23
  • This applies only to the Holst and the Wagner, since Shostakovich and Orff died less than 70 years ago.
    – phoog
    Oct 31, 2015 at 7:48

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