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About Sheet Music

Some basic facts you should know about the sheet music in the Library of Congress collections:

The Library of Congress cannot provide a reproduction of any item that is protected by copyright, including out-of-print music, without written permission from the current copyright owner.

Many songs can be found in anthologies widely available for purchase either online or through your local music store. We suggest our patrons try this avenue whenever possible, because it is faster and less expensive than trying to obtain these materials from the Library of Congress. The music publishers listed below offer many of these anthologies for reasonable prices; they are indexed (along with other smaller publishers) in a publication titled Musi*key – The Reference Guide of Note, which is available in some large public and academic libraries. However, most of the larger music publishers now have an online site as well, as do many larger music stores.

The Music Division has several million pieces of published sheet music, and most of it is not fully cataloged. Most of this material cannot be found in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. However, the Music Division Reader Services staff are experienced in searching for these materials, and will be happy to respond to a written request for assistance.

Most sheet music (secular and sacred) published after 1922 is protected by copyright. It is useful to consult the following chart for more information about terms of copyright protection.

Beginning in 1978, a creator of a musical work could submit a phonorecord instead of paper copy; thus, the Library of Congress has no "sheet music" for many works deposited for copyright after 1977. Since 1978, the Copyright Office has maintained registration and renewal information online.

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   February 28, 2006
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