Here’s a list of new songs that are now in the public domain as of 2020

There comes a point when a musical composition becomes available for anyone to use without permission or licensing. The magical year now for most territories around the world is 1924. Anything created in that year and before are now free to use.

For example, George Gershwin’s magnificent “Rhapsody in Blue” is now in the public domain. Reader Dave points to this article that details what else is free to use. I quote directly from the law faculty of Duke University:

  • Rhapsody in Blue, George Gershwin
  • Fascinating Rhythm and Oh, Lady Be Good, music George Gershwin, lyrics Ira Gershwin
  • Lazy, Irving Berlin
  • Jealous Hearted Blues, Cora “Lovie” Austin (composer, pianist, bandleader) (recorded by Ma Rainey)
  • Santa Claus Blues, Charley Straight and Gus Kahn (recorded by Louis Armstrong)
  • Nobody’s Sweetheart, music Billy Meyers and Elmer Schoebel, lyrics Gus Kahn and Ernie Erdman

“(Only the musical compositions referred to above are entering the public domain. Subsequent arrangements, orchestrations, or recordings of those compositions, such as Yuja Wang’s performance of Rhapsody in Blue, might still be copyrighted. You are free to copy, perform, record, or adapt Gershwin’s composition, but may need permission to use a specific recording of it.”

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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