Music Rules

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LibriVox, Music and Sound

May I add incidental music or sound effects to my recordings?

Please do not add music or sound effects to recordings for collaborative projects (unless the Book Coordinator encourages it on a special project). It adds yet another complication for our hard-working book coordinators if they have to verify copyright status of added music. Do not add vocal effects (chorus effects, reverb, distortion, etc.) unless you've checked this is okay with your BC.

However, it is acceptable to include music or sound effects in your solo recordings if all the following requirements are met:

1. The music or sound effect must not make the voice recording hard to understand.

2. The source of the music or sound effect must be credited.

  • At the end of your recording, say the title, creator, and source of music or sound effects included in your recording. Example: "The music included in this recording is The Fifth Regiment March by Issler's Orchestra available at Gutenberg.org"
  • If you composed/performed the music or sound effect yourself, at the end of the recording, please say something like: "Sound effects created by [your name] and are in the public domain." (NOTE: Music and sound effects are automatically included in the public domain by way of being part of a !LibriVox recording.)
  • Provide the source information to your Meta Coordinator so that the documentation can be added to the !LibriVox project catalog page.

3. The music or sound effect must be clearly in the public domain.


Please note, LibriVox follows US laws; if you live outside the US, you may also need to comply with local law. Three aspects of an audio recording can be copyrighted -- the music, any lyrics, and the actual recorded performance. The following section is NOT written by a lawyer or legal expert, but is our best interpretation of the information available. There are various possibilities for the legality of audio added to your recording:

  1. If the music and any lyrics are an original composition by yourself, and you record your own performance of the work, by including them in your recording, you are declaring them in the public domain.
  2. If the music and any lyrics were provably written before 1923, they are considered in the public domain in the US under the same laws as printed material. If you record yourself performing the work, this can be included.
  3. If the music and any lyrics were provably written before 1923, and the performer of the piece has explicitly placed a specific recording into the public domain, this can be included.

Even if the copyright has expired on the music and any lyrics, it seems very likely that the majority of recordings will still be in copyright. Unless declared public domain, all recordings since 1972 are copyrighted for a Very Long Time. Recordings made at any time before that may be protected under federal law, but are definitely protected under state law.

LibriVox has no funds to pay for legal advice or anything else. Therefore, we will not challenge any copyright declarations, nor can we investigate the legal background of any piece. It's the responsibility of the soloist to prove the public domain status of a piece.


Some sources with provable public domain recordings include:


Other Notes

PLEASE always keep a backup of your original recording, before the music / effect was added. If there is any question about the use of music or an effect, it's a horrible business to remove it.

The soloist is STILL responsible for double-checking the legality of a recording before using it, and giving the evidence for it, even when taken from one of the above-mentioned sites or a similar location.

In non-US countries, the date of death of the composer, lyricist and performer are important. To give the widest possible audience the chance to listen to your recording legally, please try to make sure that all the dates of death (where relevant) were more than 70 years ago.

LibriVox will not include any recordings excerpted under Fair Use arguments.

There are lots of very cool recordings online -- however, some of them have been put online illegally, or for educational use only. Unfortunately, even the oldest recordings or most common-place sounds, need to fit the three criteria above for inclusion in a LibriVox recording.

For more information about determining copyright and public domain status please see: Copyright and Public Domain