Tuesday night a Kickstarter project called Record and release free music without copyrights by Aaron Dunn/Musopen will end having raised at least 350% of its goal. You might not know it to look at it, but the project has the potential to benefit pretty much every other project on Kickstarter — and film projects in particular.
To legally use music in a film or for any other purpose, you are required to license the content first: both the publishing rights (the person who wrote the work) and performance rights (the people who perform the work). In the case of classical music, there is no longer a copyright — anything published before 1923 is public domain — but there are still performance rights — the orchestra who performs the piece, etc.
This is often an issue with filmmakers in particular: budgeting money to hire a small string quartet or orchestra to soundtrack the work. The Musopen project is raising money to record completely free and open versions of various classical works. As the description states, “Every $1,000 buys a complete set of Mozart violin sonatas.” Which works are recorded will be voted on by backers, with higher tiers offering the ability to request a specific piece.
Though we want to be sure the world’s orchestras are getting plenty of work, we applaud the creative application of this project and its potential benefits for the rest of the creative community. Great stuff.