Carl Nielsen's works in the Public Domain

• Aug 23, 2019 - 19:58

Having died in 1931, all of Carl Nielsen's work should be in the Public Domain, yes?


In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

1923 is the date that the US changed is copyright laws to resemble international law. Everything published before 1923 is Public domain in the US with a few exceptions. In other countries it depends upon when the composer and lyricist died and 1923 doesn't matter. If the composer and lyricist have been dead 70 years, the score is public domain regardless of the publication date. An example of an exception is Respighi, his wife renewed all of his copyrights and his music is still not in the public domain for the most part.

These are generalizations and IANAL.

In reply to by mike320

OK, so, synopsizing:

Unless someone (with the right to do so) renewed the copyright in the jurisdiction in question (and then it depends, of course, on when they did so):

In the U.S.: if the work was published before 1923 (and copyright not renewed thereafter, I presume), then it doesn't matter when the composer died, it is PD;

In Europe (at least) and in the U.S. after 1923, (again if the copyright wasn't renewed beforehand), it's "death plus 70."

What about a work that's "in its 70 year period": can any rightful heir and/or the publisher renew the copyright, even if the composer didn't expressly provide for such in their will?

And of course, if in doubt for a specific work, do "due diligence" to try to find out.

Knowing you're NAL,


OK, here's another wrinkle: the work I'm considering transcribing is Nielsen's "Wind Quintet" (1922, according to, which in turn cites; the edition I'm working from states "Copyright 1923-1951 by [publisher] Wilhelm Hansen." PD or not PD? If the work is PD but the printing is not, is it sufficient to simply cite the edition in my MuseScore transcription?

In reply to by OlyDLG is the page for Nielsen's quitet. If you try to download it there is a message that there is no guarantee it's not in the public domain in your country (it's a generic message) and tells me that somewhere it's still under copyright. This generally means it is in the public domain in the US and EU, but I won't promise this to be the case. Their messages normally tell you if it's not PD in the US or EU.

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