Thinking of doing a remake of one of your favorite songs? Worried about all the copyright roadblocks you will have to negotiate ahead of hitting the record button? You may just be able to skip all of that if the song on your radar happens to be in the public domain.
Every year, dozens of creative works, including books, art, and music, get added to the public domain. What does this mean?
What is the public domain?
First off, the public domain represents the state where creative works are not protected under copyright law. In other words, they belong to the public, instead of being the intellectual property of a single individual or entity.
Since they are free from copyright protection, they are available to you for remaking in your own unique voice. Public domain songs are found in various genres, including popular styles. With that said, what are some of the pop songs in the public space that you can now re-do? We have listed 25 of them to make it easy for you to get started:
1. Trail of the Lonesome Pine – by Harry Carroll and Ballard MacDonald
2. Till We Meet Again – by Richard A. Whiting and Raymond B. Egan
3. Adoring You – by Joseph McCarthy and Harry Tierney (composer)
4. Everybody Loves My Baby – by Jack Palmer and Spencer Williams
5. Follow The Swallow – by Billy Rose, Mort Dixon, and Ray Henderson (composer)
6. Just We Two – by Dorothy Donnelly and Sigmund Romberg (composer)
7. Keep Smiling At Trouble – by Al Jolson, B. G. De Sylva, and Lewis E. Gensler (composer)
8. Little Jazz Bird – by Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin (composer)
9. My Best Girl – by Walter Donaldson
10. At The End Of The Road – by Ballard MacDonald and James F. Hanley
11. Tea For Two – by Irving Caesar and Vincent Youmans (composer)
12. Wreck On The Southern Old 97 – by Henry Whitter
13. Totem-Tom-Tom – by Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach, and Rudolf Friml (composer); Produced by Rose Marie
14. Home In Pasadena – by Grant Clarke, Edgar Leslie, and Harry Warren
15. Mandy, Make Up Your Mind – by Grant Clarke, Roy Turk, and George W. Meyer (composer); Produced by Dixie To Broadway
16. Since Ma Is Playing Mahjong – by Billy Rose and Con Conrad
17. Charley, My Boy – by Gus Kahn and Ted FioRito
18. In Shadowland – by Sam W. Lewis and Joe Young, with Ruth Brooks and Fred E. Ahlert (composers)
19. Let Me Linger Longer In Your Arms – by Cliff Friend and Abel Baer (composer)
20. Oh Miss Hannah – by w. Thekla Hollingsworth and Jessie L. Deppen (composer)
21. Rhapsody In Blue – composed by George Gershwin
22. Big Boy – by Jack Yellen and Milton Ager (composer)
23. Don't Mind the Rain – by Chester Conn and Ned Miller
24. Go 'Long Mule – by Henry Creamer and Robert King
25. One I Love Belongs To Someone Else – by Gus Kahn and Isham Jones (composer)
There are many more songs available. This comprehensive public domain listing of popular songs is worthing checking out for additional options.
Now that you know where you can find popular songs in the public domain for re-use, you may be wondering how they got there in the first place. Creative works end up in the public domain for several reasons. They include:
- The rights to the work were forfeited for one reason or another.
- The work was directly created by the U.S. federal government. Note, however, that consultants and freelancers can apply copyright protection to works created for the government.
- The creation was never in a tangible form. A lecture, speech, or standup comedy routine, for example, that was not written down or recorded (put in a tangible form) beforehand, would not be protected under copyright law.
- The work was produced before March 1, 1989, and did not have a copyright notice issued. Copyright notices were mandatory for works created before that date but such notices are not necessary for works produced thereafter.
- The work is not original enough to be protected under copyright law. If the creation heavily uses content from publicly available data, it may be deemed unoriginal and placed in the public domain as a result.
- The copyright protection period has expired. This is the most common reason for works being placed in the public domain. In the United States, music works are generally protected for 95 years under copyright law. As a result, most songs created in 1924 or before are now in the public domain.
Ready to remake a public domain song?
All you need is a solid idea and access to skilled musicians who can help you create something that sounds professional and up to scratch with modern music trends. You don't have to look too far for that type of expertise.
Here at Tunedly, you can easily connect with musicians who have experience with Disney productions, high profile music competitions, and performances with many of the who's who in Nashville and other music hubs. Essentially, you are guaranteed a professional song that will stand out in the crowded marketplace. So, go ahead. Look for the popular public domain songs you want to remake and let's get started.