Tag Archives: classical music download

IMSLP’s 5 Year Anniversary

Five years ago today, there was a tiny blip in the cosmos of the Internet as an awkwardly-named website made its first appearance.  It had no logo, and a main page befitting its humble birth.

This website is now five years old, and hosts one of the largest collections of music scores in the world.  It has more than 85,000 scores written by 4,800 composers, and a fledgling recording collection consisting of more than 1,700 recordings.  All this was made possible by the countless hours of contributions by musicians and music enthusiasts.

As a musician myself, I would like to thank these contributors.

I will not dwell at length here.  Most of the recent updates on the status of the project can be found in my New Years post.  I would, however, like to mention a few recent developments:

  • I first want to congratulate the MuseScore team on the successful recent release of MuseScore 1.0, possibly the best open source music typesetting software ever written.  IMSLP may add support for MuseScore files in the near future.

  • I also want to announce the availability of IMSLP anniversary merchandise from the Puffin Point store.  Currently there is only the mug, but the store can certainly add products if there is interest.

  • And last but not least, a shout-out to IMSLP contributor Philidor and his friend for creating the beautiful anniversary banner you see at the top of this page.

Happy birthday, IMSLP!

Edward W. Guo
Project Leader, IMSLP / Petrucci Music Library

What is IMSLP?


When a composer writes a piece of music, he owns that music unless he gives ownership away. That means if someone wants the musical score, they must abide by his requirements. Equally, if they wish to perform the work they must give him royalties.

But copyright falls away after a number of years. The composer, his heirs and descendants, don't own it forever. The precise point when copyright vanishes depends on national law. When a work falls out of copyright, it is in the public domain.

Classical music copyright law is fiddly and complex, but the basic rule is that copyright persists for the composer or other author (if any) for 50 years after his death (Canada) or life plus 70 years (EU).

It's in that space where a work enters the public domain that IMSLP operates. Thousands of classical music scores and recordings emerge from copyright every year. IMSLP, run by volunteers using Wiki collaborative software, upload these scores and recordings to a server so they are available for anyone to download.

Like many good ideas, IMSLP is simple and elegant. In 2009, IMSLP won the MERLOT Classics award for Music and was named one of the Top 100 Web Sites by PC Magazine. It gets millions of hits per day.

At the time of writing, IMSLP holds over 71,000 scores by over 4,000 composers. These works would otherwise be sitting in libraries gathering dust, but now can see the light of day. It's a fabulous project. Anyone can get involved.