Is MuseScore not free anymore?

• Dec 12, 2019 - 04:43

After re-joining MuseScore and attempting to download a file, a pop-up appears telling me to start a free trial instead of downloading immediately as it usually does. I thought the whole point of MuseScore was that it was free, so could someone please tell me what happened?


The MuseScore software - what you use on your computer to create scores - has always been and always will be free.

The website where people can share scores has always had both free and Pro accounts, where free accounts have certain limitations compared to Pro. The only thing has changed is some of the specifics of what those limitations are. Copyright owners need to get paid for having their music on the site, so copyrighted music can currently only be downloaded by Pro members.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

In some cases this is a great shame, especially when the pieces are just renderings of (say) 16th century dance music which are way out of copyright and have required no real work on the part of the "arranger". (Omitting the bass line, changing the key...etc).

I'm all for composers getting their proper reward, and arrangers too (I have done both myself) but this all seems like a way to screw money out of visitors to the site. Great shame, Or do the Pro vs Free criterial need to be looked at again?

I'd expected better, on what I felt was a caring-sharing site. I've been singing its praises to amateur groups and schools, and I feel embarrassed now that I've done so.

I was going to upload some of my arrangements of renaissance pieces, (some of which were simply done, others required a lot of work) but I wouldn't want people to have to become "Pro" to pay for them.

In reply to by fredharris

I was going to upload some of my arrangements of renaissance pieces, (some of which were simply done, others required a lot of work) but I wouldn't want people to have to become "Pro" to pay for them.

Then mark them correctly so as Public Domain work or original work. The first are free automatically, for the 2nd you have the option to choose whether to make them available for free or not.

In reply to by jeetee

Thanks for the info. Genuinely. I may well do that, if I ever decide to return to the fold. (ie When the rules are a bit fairer all round). I'm sure the people who uploaded the (unaltered) Susato and Gervaise dances I was searching through the other day did not regard themselves as the composer or even arranger. But I was still being asked to pay.

Whole thing has become decidedly tacky - and I say that as a (part-time ex pro) writer and arranger of music.
Maybe it'll shake down.
Until then, I'll be looking elsewhere for a fairer sharing site - any recommendations, folks?

In reply to by fredharris

I take it you believe those pieces to be in the public domain, then? If the people who uploaded them had marked them as such, you wouldn't be asked to pay, so I guess they must have neglected to do this, so the site has to assume they are copyrighted by someone. You can simply write to the people who uploaded them and ask them to mark the pieces public domain, then they will be available for free download. You might even be able to ask the folks at yourself, but I'm not totally sure how that works, you'd have to ask over there. What I do know is that makes some attempt to determine the origin of pieces upon upload, but they depend on the uploaders and the community to help get it right. The community over there is quite active, so I do recommend you go over there and check it out.

Regarding looking "elsewhere", not sure what you mean by "fair" in this context. MuseScore is being fair to the copyright holders by making sure they get paid - that's the law, plain and simple. And to pay the copyright holders, they need to charge for downloads somehow. You won't find any other site doing it differently - copyright law applies to all. Any site that allows download of copyrighted music needs to pay the copyright holders, and that money needs to come from somewhere. Well, probably on the "dark web" there are some sites where people are illegally sharing music without paying royalties, so I guess you can could take your chances there.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hi Marc,

First of all, I love your jazz primer which I discovered online many years ago, and for which I give you many thanks. Anyone who hasn't read it should check it out - thoroughly recommend it (as do many of the amateur and pro jazz musicians I have passed the link on to.) Gold dust.

Yes, your suggestion of contacting the uploader of those traditional pieces to suggest that it should be marked PD might be a good idea. I admit that I hadn't considered that MuseScore does not have the facilities to check whether something uploaded has an original content or not, and has to rely on the contributor's conscience. I don't know what guidance the site gives. I'm prepared to guess that a lot of the uploaders of early music (not all, obviously) realise that their input has been minimal, where that's the case.

If someone has contributed in a real way to the arrangement (e.g. those terrific arrangements by Wilfried Wachter) of course they deserve to be paid. Leaving out the bass line or changing the key hardly qualifies in my book - but perhaps others see it differently. Including possibly the uploaders.

What you say about copyright holders echoes what I've already said in my first post on this topic.

I think suggesting that I look on the dark web was just a little ---- unnecessary. I don't think that you and I see these things very differently.

And even if we do....

...keep up the good work!


In reply to by fredharris

Thanks for the comments! When you upload a score, there is I believe some attempt by the system to identify it as being connected with an existing work, I suspect it just goes by the title. Again, for further discussion of the specifics, you'd need to go over to that site.

The suggestion of looking at the dark web was not meant seriously of course. But I didn't really know how else to respond to a question that seemed to boil down to, "I don't think it's fair to have to pay copyright holders, where can I find a site where I won't have to do that". If you're now saying you agree that paying copyright holders is fair, and thus is actually doing the right thing here, you are right, we don't see things differently.

In reply to by fredharris

Hi fredharris,

I think I know what you are searching for. You want ancient music that is out of copy-right such as Susato and others of the period. And you want to make your own arrangements. Am I right?
You must already know IMSLP where there is plenty of free music of all genres. If not, do find them
Mike Magatagan has made some lovely arrangements of medieval music at He calls them public domain. Michelle Cumant, also, has some Gervaise, She says Licence: Domaine Public but also says to contact her for permission to perform outside the private area. You may select pdf or MIDI.
There is music there from many composers from Machaut to Anthony Holborne and much more all donated generously by the arrangers. But these are other people's arrangements not the original music. So they perhaps might not be what you want.

I found a lot of original Attaingnant and Praetorius dance music on a German website www, a few years ago but I can't connect today. Perhaps they have closed. It was pdf only. Perhaps you can Google them. They are worth finding because they had the whole of Terpsichore.
I'll try to find some more websites where early music pieces are available legally and free. I agree with you that it is a big pity that lots of public domain material is now for payment only on Musescore. Have you seen how many people feel they have some copy-right on Arbeau's 'Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie' (1588) but they have not changed his harmonies in any way? Others say correctly it is public domain.
I hope other people will suggest some good web sites, because I will use them too. Good luck with your search and your arrangements.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

As far as I read on their site the Pro version has more feature: advanced mixing features and generation of instrument parts from an orchestral score. The latter is a BIG limitation to the free version.
Everyone has his own right to get paid for the programming work, I'm not arguing on this topic.
But please,, stop saying your software is free.

In reply to by Paolo Volante

To be clear: you are talking about difference between accounts on the website, not about the MuseScore notation software itself. The MuseScore notation software is always 100% free - there are no additional features enabled by a subscription to,, or any other website. Free is free, and The MuseScore notation software is free. Other websites may cost money, but MuseScore is 100% free software, no way to pay for it even if you wanted to.

Yeah I'm also disappointed. I believe this is a bad business model. A better approach in my humble opinion would have been to keep the site free for everyone and enable them to access files from people who just want to share their work publicly. Same goes for arrangements of long gone composers. I understand the site owners still want to make money. I believe that can still be accomplished by enabling composers to publish non-free content, charge for that and take a commission on each sale.

Another problematic point is you can find tons of music sheets for pop songs on How is that respecting copyrights? I'm sure the music industry will eventually put an end to that or at least find a way to monetize it.

I'm sure this move will simply cause people to start sharing their musescore files some other way. It might not allow you to play them online but that's just a minor inconvenience. Unfortunate as we won't be able to rely on a single place to find them anymore.

In reply to by serge.prudhomme.42

I think you are confused about what is actually happening, and while this indeed wasn’t the proper place to bring it up, it’s important to correct misinformation posted here.

To be clear: I t’s only the copyrighted content you need a Pro account to download, and the reason is so that the copyright owners can be paid. So yes, the copyrights are absolutely being respected, that’s the whole point.

People who share their own music, or their transcriptions/arrangements of public domain music, can do so completely freely. It’s free to upload as much music as you want, free to download as much music as you want. The only time anyone needs to pay is if they want to download copyrighted music, and the money collected is used to pay the copyright owners.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I use Musescore to make transcriptions of songs, and I make arrangements of them to suit my band (I add or omit instruments). I would like to share these arrangements so that other bands wont have to do the same work. Now the scores that are uploaded are behind the paywall because they are based on copyrighted songs. But my scores are not perfect the melody might contain mistakes. Why should people have to pay to download and use them? I also find the mandatory login to download them problematic. This is how Jazz evolved, people listening and copying licks and songs from other records, basing them on existing music. I'm waiting for a truly free platform where I can share my arrangements.

In reply to by chdesign

"Why should people have to pay to download and use them?" - because that is how copyright law works. If someone else owns the copyright to the music, they need to be paid for the download.

Jazz did involve with people listening to records - and people paid for those, too, and the musicians who created the music on those records got paid as result.

There are any number of platforms where you can share your own original music without requiring login - Google drive, Dropbox, etc. But sharing other people's copyrighted music remains illegal.

In reply to by budrodman

Define "musescore". The user community here on surely can't. Neihter can the user community over at Nor can the MuseScore software (neither the program for Windows, Mac, Linux, not the mobile app for iOS or Android).
The uploader on can, as can the staff operating, but neither is likely to read along here, so you'd need to tell them.

In reply to by budrodman

There should be a way to contact the uploader by going over there to that other website. While viewing the particular score you believe to be in error, you can click on the name of the user who uploaded it and try to contact them. I can't give you a specific link because I don't now which score or which user, and in any event, again this is absolutely the wrong place to ask for help with that other website.

In reply to by budrodman

Whether or not a score needs editing (whatever that means) is not the point. A 100 year old copy might be one thing. If you are working from a more modern copy, you should contact the publisher to get permission to do anything to it.

In reply to by budrodman

Not true in the least. I suggest you read the laws that apply in the country in which you live. They can differ from place to place.
In the US, If a publisher sells a copy of a Mozart concerto, the publisher owns that version of the concerto. So, yes, they own the notes. I can't reproduce "the notes" in any way (photo or hand written) without the publisher giving me permission. Which they probably won't. They aren't in business to give music away. If you go before a judge and say "The notes are PD", The judge will ask you to produce the notes. So you give the judge a recent printed score from, say, Alfred Publishing Co. The judge then points to the copyright notice (and the date) on the score and throws out the case.

In reply to by budrodman

The copyright for that 100 year old score has run out. It may not have been copyrighted to begin with.

Depending on the country involved, copyright has nothing to do with the composer, or the notes, or any of that. It applies to the published version of something. It could be a book, an audio or video recording. Heck, even Mardi gras costumes are copyrighted. A photographer can't snap a pic of one of them is the parade and publish it without the owner's permission.

In reply to by budrodman

If you can hand the judge a hundred year old (after the composers death) copy you`re fine.

Yes and that is exactly what is said since several posts.

So if the guy having uploaded the score on can not produce such old source and has only a recent version at his disposal, he can not make it public.

In reply to by bobjp

This still is the wrong place to discuss these issues. But for the record, the statement that the publisher of a Mozart concerto owns the notes is factually incorrectly, in the US at least, probably all other Berne countries. They own the typesetting, they own the editorial decisions (like decisions about where to add fingering or articulation and phrase markings Mozart might have not bothered with, or if they produced their own cadenza, they might own that. But for the most part, the notes are the Mozart's, and thus now public domain.

So, starting from a published edition, you can't distribute photocopies because they reproduce all of that, nor can you publisher your own MuseScore edition that copies all those editorial markings, but you absolutely can produce your own edition with your own editorial markings. Of course, you may have no idea what is actually Mozart's and what was added by the publisher, unless you compare editions, check an Urtext, etc.

In reply to by budrodman

They do say so.

" but you absolutely can produce your own edition with your own editorial markings. "
I am unable to verify this. Hal Lenard says that they have a list (that you have to sign up for) of songs that you may make arrangements of. But "Does not allow publication of competitive ensemble arrangements, marching ensemble, full orchestra, or professional ensemble arrangements". Rather than try to get around the wording, it just seems to me that "if you don't own the copyright, don't copy it (part, all, change a few notes, etc.) is the safer way to go. Or do what you want, just don't get caught. The .com site was lucky for a long time.

This is not something new at all. It's all been around for a very long time.

In reply to by bobjp

Yes, Hal Leonard owns copyright (in full or part) for a very large number of compositions, and I'm sure they'd be happy to tell you which. But I don't think you will find any Mozart concertos on that list. This isn't a question of getting around wording, it's an important tenet of copyright law that as you say has been around for a very long time and has not changed during my lifetime. Much else has changed about copyright law, but not this. Mozart's music is public domain and has been for centuries - every single note of it - and this is universally recognized by anyone who is familiar with copyright law. The copyright on an edition of a musical composition extends only to what that editor actually brought to the table themselves - the markings they added, the engraving decisions they made along the way, etc.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Boosey & Hawkes, Theodore Presser, and G. Schirmer, all have Mozart in their catalogues. All say some variation of this: "A licence is needed for permission to create a new version of an existing work, such as an arrangement or transcription" (Boosey & Hawkes). Sounds to me that as far as the version in their catalogue goes, they own everything about it.

This from a copyright law website. " If you find a copy of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" with a copyright notice of 1930, it is still under copyright protection even though the song was published in 1862 and is clearly public domain. "

I haven't yet found a source that refers only to publisher's changes. But I'll keep looking.

In reply to by bobjp

Show me the specific Mozart (or other clearly public domain) piece about which Boosey & Hawkes says any such thing. The quote you give is generic, it refers only to "an existing work".

Again, what I am saying is not even remotely controversial. It is absolutely universally known by anyone who has studied copyright law at all. It's not some fine point that is debated and goes back and forth with each court decision. It is a 100% clear black and white known piece of copyright law: once a composition is public domain, it remains public domain even if someone publishes their own copyrighted edition of it. The edition is considered a "derivative work" (that's the official legal term) and the copyright protections on that derivative work extend only to the original contributions.

Here's an official publication from the US copyright office on the topic:

Here is a direct relevant quote: "The copyright in a derivative work covers only the additions, changes, or other new material appearing for the first time in the work. Protection does not extend to any preexisting material, that is, previously published or previously registered works or works in the public domain or owned by a
third party".

So for Battle Hymn, that edition is still under copyright, but the music itself is not. You cannot photocopy the sheet music, perform or record the arrangement without permission if it differs musically from the original, or publish your own edition using the same editorial changes. But you can absolutely use the music any way you see fit; the publication fo the edition does not imbue the original music itself with new protections.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks for the link. But that isn't what I'm talking about.

A side thought.
Scenario 1. Let's say I wanted to make a arrangement of the Mozart Horn Concerto. Someone has scanned a very old copy and put it on IMSLP. Great. But it is hard to read. I find another version done a few years ago. I should be able to use that. Unless I can't as long as a work is copyrighted when it is published. As you have said, there is noway to know what is PD and what was added. Some detective work might reveal a few things.

But more to the point.

Scenario 2. Link to the horn concerto at Theodore Presser. They are an American company, but the actual publisher is a German company. There is little copyright info from that company. There is also a horn and piano version from another German company. There is no copyright info on their site. I order one of the versions from Theodore Presser. But if i want to use one of the versions to make an arrangement from, there's this pesky generic line from the company website.

"If you wish to make an arrangement of one of our copyrighted works, you must obtain an arrangement license before commencing your work. These licenses are not automatically granted and may be declined for any reason."
Sure, both the orchestra and piano versions are derivative works. But that doesn't seem to apply based on the arrangement notice.

In reply to by bobjp

The link I posted most definitely does apply. If you wish to make an arrangement of a Mozart horn concerto, you absolutely positively can. Even if you choose to use a copyrighted edition as a starting point. Simply restrict yourself to the actual music, not the editorial additions. It's not rocket science to figure out which is which for most things. If in doubt (eg, regarding articulations or dynamics) check IMSLP or another edition. You can choose to give up, but there is no legal need to.

The particular edition you link to is very specifically marked "Urtext", so it makes the job easy. By definition, it's all Mozart, nothing added. It's an especially good starting place.

As for the generic quote about making arrangements of copyrighted works, again, in this case, the edition is protected as a derivative work, so you cannot photocopy it etc. But the generic statement you list quite simply does not apply to the music here. You absolutely positively without even the slightest possibility of any doubt whatsoever have the legal right to make an arrangement of the actual music, which is public domain. Again, you can choose to misinterpret this statement and thus give up, but the law is 100% clear on this. No lawyer in the world will tell you otherwise and even a cursory read of the actual text of the text - or the publication I linked - makes this plain. You could even write the publisher and confirm if for some reason you don't trust what you read in the publication I cited or what you read in the copyright law itself or what you read in any other website that explains how derivative works function. The publisher will surely be upfront with you, they have nothing to gain by lying here.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks, Marc. I know it sounds like I am being stupid or intentionally obtuse. I'm just exploring a few "what if's".
I know many will do what they want anyway. The three US publishers I looked at all have generic statements concerning different aspects of their copyright. It seems to me that in the arranging statements a simple "except in the case of derivative works" would be helpful. Otherwise, how is the average person supposed to know?
Personally, I'm not interested in making arrangements of anything. My interest in MuseScore is for composition. And even that is for recreation.

I’m baffled that MuseScore, the kind soul fostered by idealism, has been totally spoiled by commercial interests. I used it as a piano teacher for my students so that even the poorest could learn the skills of writing music on the computer. Now this project has been hi jacked by profit driven rather boring and ignorant people. What a shame.

In reply to by carstenaugust

And to be clear - there has been no hijacking whatsoever. The core team of people who developed MuseScore have supported themselves through MuseScore Pro subscriptions for over a decade now. It's what enabled the original developers to dedicate their lives to MuseScore full time back when the very first 1.0 version came out, and it's what enables the current team to hire new developers and one of the most well-respect designers around to lead the team now. Without the revenue from, the notation software would likely have died many years ago. Certainly it wouldn't be anywhere near what is today nor would it be be growing the way it is.

In reply to by budrodman

No, it is not, My reply was to the question: Is there no 'dotted quarter note' with the free version?

Whatever: the MuseScore Editor software is free for download and use, your download issue is about scores and as such nothing to discuss here on, biut needs to go to

Scores marked as Public Domain or Original Work are free to download, unless the uploaded disabled the download (which is a Pro feature).
Scores not marked as either are not free to download, regardless whether they are Public Domain or Original Work. That 'tagging' is not happening automagically, but needs to get done by the uploader

In reply to by budrodman

@budrodman... You wrote:
Can anyone link to anything that can be downloaded without signing on for the trial?

One must be logged in (signed in) to download, but not restricted to pro account credentials. You can log in with a free account. (Just like you are able to log in to this forum to post comments.)

In reply to by budrodman

To be clear: just as has been the case for the last ten years, offers both free and pro accounts. Either work to upload or download scores. They happen to also offer free trials of the Pro account. That’s relatively new; this wasn’t possible in the old days. But you do t need that. A plain ordinary free account - no trial involved - is completely sufficient.

The only scores that require a Pro account to download are those for which the copyright owner needs to be paid. As far as I know, “official scores” can’t be downloaded at all, because the copyright owners insisted on that as a condition of offering them. But again, none of volunteers / users of the notation software here on this website really have any special insight into the workings of Questions about that website really need to be asked over there in that website where the people who run it are.

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