Bulk redistribution of MIDI files from Open libraries (Open Well​-​Tempered Clavier, Open Goldberg, OpenScore LiederCorpus)

• Sep 23, 2019 - 15:25


I noticed there are some amazing Open scores hosted on musescore (Open Well​-​Tempered Clavier, Open Goldberg, OpenScore LiederCorpus). I think these were publicly funded projects with the spirit of removing all barriers to accessing and using the contained files.

My question is - can I download all these files from musescore and redistribute them how I wish? I want to build them into an app that plays midi files. It looks like I should be able to download them all once I sign up for a Pro account. I just want to make sure redistribution doesn't violate the license agreement of the musescore web app.

Thanks so much!


I believe almost all of those are in the Public Domain (IIRC all but one in OpenLiederCorpus) and as such don't require a Pro membership for downloading them. Hard to tell for me though, being a Pro member myself ;-)
But I guess your question might be better suited for/in the corresponding groups on musescore.com.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Thanks for the help Jojo-Schmitz

I didn’t see a forum section for legal questions. This is an important matter to sort out. I assumed as you did that I shouldn’t need a Pro account to download open scores. However, musescore is forcing me to purchase Pro to download any score. They transparently give reasons for charging but they don’t apply to public domain copyright-free scores in my opinion.

Perhaps we can open up a healthy debate?

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Sorry to intrude.
Often my scores, laboriously updated as PD, have returned to the non-PD state. Sometimes repeatedly. So I'm trying, but it takes time, to include links to IMSLP or Wikipedia (Mutopia unfortunately is not contemplated). Could the same have happened for some of those mentioned?

In reply to by aliston18

"I didn’t see a forum section for legal questions."
I think that the MuseScore team is trying to make the situation easier to understand.

Visit the MuseScore web pages which host the music for OpenScore and OpenScore LiederCorpus:

Way down the left side of the page you will find a filter headed "LICENSES", and if you click on one of the headings "To use commercially", "To share" or "For personal use" you should still see the entire list of PD (public domain) scores. As @Jojo-Schmitz pointed out, almost every work in the OpenScore Lieder Corpus should now be marked as PD.

In reply to by DanielR

Thanks Daniel.

That all makes sense. However, when I click on a score from OpenScore and view the License in the right panel, it is listed as Creative Commons copyright waiver. Scores from Open Goldberg also show the exact same Creative Commons copyright waiver. Scores are getting filtered out when I click on the ‘Public Domain’ or ‘Commercial’ categories while in Open Goldberg. It seems that not all scores have been updated with the PD tag. Is PD the same as CC0?


In reply to by aliston18

"Is PD the same as CC0?"
The short answer is "no".

See definitions in Wikipedia:
PD (public domain) - https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/Public_domain
CC0 (Creative Commons "no copyright reserved") - https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/CC0

By marking our scores "OpenScore (CC0)", we place them in the Public Domain for anyone to use. And the "PD" flag attached to scores on musescore.com is just a quick visual reminder that they are indeed in the public domain, as a result of the CC0 declaration.

"Open Goldberg. It seems that not all scores have been updated with the PD tag"
Correct: those scores were all uploaded long before MuseScore.com introduced the "PD" system and its visual flag. The owner (uploader) of the scores would need to confirm their PD status score by score.

In reply to by DanielR

Okay, thanks for bearing with me here. So if the new PD tag is a result of the CC0 declaration which is already in place, couldn’t a db admin save many owners the trouble of manually updating the PD status score by score? Why not use a quick update query in the database to update them all at once?

In reply to by aliston18

"Why not use a quick update query in the database to update them all at once?"
Because the (manual) process of confirming and assigning the PD flag requires at least step 1 and in many cases step 2 or 3 of the following:
1. Entering the official title of the work or set (song cycle, variations, preludes & fugues etc)
2. Entering the URL of a matching public domain score in PDF format on imslp.org
3. Entering the URL of a matching page about the work on wikipedia.org

Why make it so difficult? Because the MuseScore management has to ensure that scores tagged as PD really are in the public domain. All these changes to identify and flag PD scores occurred because MuseScore was facing lawsuits from music publishers (the copyright owners). Solution: pay royalties to the copyright owners where works are not in the public domain, and make very clear which scores are in the public domain where no royalties are due to anyone.

In reply to by DanielR

Yes, but as I pointed out, they all currently are listed as having the same CC0 license irrespective of the necessary PD verification process. I’m not grasping what the difference is in terms of what I am allowed to do with the files (PD vs CC0). Maybe I’m getting too into the weeds here - I just want to know if I can use all these CC0 files commercially.


In reply to by aliston18

Those CC0 scores with a PD label have been verified to really be PD.
CC0 means that the uploader waivers all rights to that particular score, not that there are no other rights involved and possible violated, like those of the composer, lyricists, arranger or original publisher.
The PD label means that it has been verified that there are no such other rights violated

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

“You should also not apply Creative Commons licenses to works that are no longer protected by copyright or are otherwise in the public domain. Instead, for those works in the worldwide public domain, we recommend that you mark them with the Public Domain Mark.”


It seems to say that you should pick one or the other as a label and not both (CC and PD)

In reply to by aliston18

@ aliston18
I agree that this is difficult. The problem is that the act of transcribing a score from a PDF file (e.g. a public domain file sourced from imslp.org) creates a new entity. The transcriber has to give away the right to this newly-edited work, and that's why we use the "CC0" mark. The "CC0" applies both to the transcriber's version (the score uploaded to musescore.com for review) and to the final version published as OpenScore or OpenScore Lieder Corpus.

From a legal point of view, it is also very important that the source material is confirmed to be in the public domain - hence the need for the PD flag. If this step is missed, then MuseScore is at risk of being sued for breach of copyright. I can only speak about the OpenScore Lieder Corpus, but there I have seen a few cases where we thought works were in the public domain - and they were not! The usual reason is that the lyricist's text is still copyright-protected, although the music itself is already out of copyright. It revolves around the "70 years since death" rule for copyright protection, which applies equally and separately to composer and lyricist.

Complicated? You bet...

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