Copyright & Referencing on digital sheet music

Holds the digital sheet music copyright? Are you allowed to use it? 

  • When you find digital sheet music on the internet you have to determine if the content holds copyright. 
  • In a copyrighted work, the creator or the publisher has the exclusive right to publish and reproduce a work or piece of music.
  • Permission from the creator or publisher (or copyright owner) is required in order to be allowed to reuse the digital sheet music.
  • If you are not sure if the work holds copyright, it is advisable to assume that this is the case.

Permission in advance

  • The creator or publisher can indicate in advance that you are free to re-use a work or piece of music. You have to meet conditions like costs, a time embargo or it can be that you can reuse the sheet music only in an educational setting.
  • Conditions can be set by means of a Creative Commons (CC) license.
  • You can ask permission to the creator or publisher (or copyright owner) to re-use the digital sheet music, preferably in text.
  • You can appeal to the right to quote or to the right of a private copy for study purposes.

References are mandatory in copyright laws. The source e.g. the name of the creator or the copyrightholder and the location of the source should be acknowledged.

The American Psychological Association (APA) developed a referencing style for scientific research.

You can find examples of references in APA style at:

Other helpful resources