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Frequently Asked Questions

About the Public Domain Project

What is the Public Domain Project?

The Public Domain Project is a open-minded (open to all persons) project for the conservation and utilization of Public Domain music and film material. It consists of the following projects:

  • The Public Domain Wiki, a free music encyclopedia that represent the full inventory of the Public Domain Pool includes all known information about a musical work.

What does public domain mean?

Public domain is a legal status and it is the contrary of copyrighted Wikipedia entry about Public Domain.

This means that you can do what you want without any reserves with a work that is public domain.

When is a work public domain?

Short answer: Any work which is out of copyright protection scope:

  • 70 years after authors lifetime
  • 50 years after producers rights
  • Creative Commons "by"-licence

This represents or outrange the law of most countries.

To be sure, please use the Public Domain Calculator at OutOfCopyright.eu Calculator to determine the status of a certain work. It is valid for the entire European Union.

Long answer:

  • This is a long answer about public domain sound recordings in US law by the public domain sherpa
  • This is the long and scientific answer about public domain status in the European Union by the OutOfCopyright.eu

Who is supporting the Project?

We have a separate page where we list our partners and sponsors

How is the project legally organized?

The Swiss Foundation Public Domain is a cultural foundation which specializes in the conservation of rare recordings (music and video material) and is the legal owner/operator of the public domain project.

I think the file/recording ??? is still copyrighted. Who should I contact?

Please contact directly the Swiss Foundation Public Domain, P.O. Box 52, CH-8126 Zumikon, Switzerland.

Who is your target audience? (designated communities)

The Public Domain Project has following designated communities:

  • A global community with access to a web browser, supporting HTML 4.0, finished school education, language level for English: A2
  • Music scientist, historians with access to a web browser, supporting HTML 4.0, school education: undergraduate level or higher, basic knowledge of Dublin Core, language level for English: B2
  • Search engines, meta archives, automated data analysis programs (bots) who can make queries with HTTP 1.1 and can handle as answer HTML 4.0 or RDF 1.1 (serialized as RDF/XML).

About the Radio

Where can I download the music played in the Radio? I can't find it!

At the moment (Fall 2010) most of our records we play in the radio are only available as medium quality MP3 files. That's enough for a radio but not for our archive. We have to digitize this tracks first in high quality and as lossless flac format before we make them available.

Do I need a special player/software to listen to your radio?

Any more recent mediaplayer software should be able to play our radio streams. There are a lot of different players around you could use.

  • For MS Windows you can use for ex. Windows Mediaplayer, Winamp, iTunes, VLC and others.
  • For Apple OSX you can use for ex. Cog iTunes, VLC and others.
  • For GNU/Linux you can use for ex. Rythmbox, Amarok, VLC, Audacius and others.

Can I listen to the public domain radio on my mobile phone?

Yes, you can also use your mobile phone. We recommend to use our aac+ streams instead of the mp3 streams. This saves a lot of bandwidth and makes the stream much more reliable on your mobile.

Can I listen the public domain radio on my stereo?

Yes, either connect your PCs sound output to your stereo or use one of the numerous streaming clients available.

If you have a stereo with the nicest high-end components we would suggest you to download the flac files instead of listening to the radio to get the best quality and the highest dynamic range possible. For high-end enthusiasts are also well-made streaming clients available supporting our radio and flac files, for example the Transporter from Logitech or the Sonos multi-room systems.

About the Music Pool

What is Ogg or Flac?

Ogg is a file format definition used for audio files. One main part of the format definition is the handling of tags to label and describe the audio data inside the file. The audio data inside the ogg file can be encoded in different codecs. For music Vorbis is a lossy compression codec (like mp3 and aac) and Flac is a loss-less compression codec. Both support high bitrates and multi channel audio.

Ogg and Flac are free and open standards not restricted by patents or license fees, which make them especially interesting for long time storage of audio data.

For the Public Domain Project all files use the loss-less high quality Flac Codec.

Detailed description at the Flac project homepage

How do I play a ogg flac file?

It is quite possible that your computer is already capable of playing flac music files. To get detailed information about playing and using flac files we recomend the using flac page from the Flac project.

iTunes does not play your files. What should I do?

Due to the design of iTunes, only Apple can add support for Flac. Visit the flac + itunes page to get more information how to contact Apple about this problem.

What I'm allowed to do with the music files?

TODO There is no restriction. You can for ex. redistribute it, copy it, modify it, use it in your own productions, use it as background music and so on.

I have a lot of shellac/vinyl recordings in my basement. How can I help you?

First thank you that you would like to share your collection with the world. Depending on your situation there are different ways how you could help us:

  • If you need the space immediately and you don't want to keep your records you can send us your recordings, well packed, by mail or bring it to a Public Domain Project archive location. Currently there is only one address: Swiss Foundation Public Domain, P.O. Box 52, CH-8126 Zumikon, Switzerland or ask user:Fuchur for a time, date and detailed location.
  • If you would like that we digitize your recordings the first step you can do is to sort out the records who are already public domain. Then you can write down the records you have to digitize to the community portal site community_portal:records_to_digitize including your name and your location. We then try to find a person/institution close enough to your location. In the beginning, this could take a long time but we hope to get more support around the world in the next years.
  • If you would like to digitize your records your self, read our articles how we digitize the records ourself and contact our technician user:Nuess0r for more advice and to make sure the files you provide match our quality level.

Who owns the music in the pool?

Nobody and everyone. All our music files are public domain this means that it is legally similar to the air around you, nobody owns it and everybody is allowed to breathe it.

I would like to license your music. How I do this?

You don't have to. Because all our music files in our pool are public domain you can use it for everything without asking someone.

What do you preserve (content information)?

The Public Domain Project takes on the responsibility to preserve the digital audio works that where transferred to it.

The content information is defined as:

  • The acoustic information in the frequency band that is audible by humans (15 Hz to 20 kHz)
  • All the needed metadata to determine the identity, provenience, origination and authenticity

About the Wiki

I found a spelling error, who should I inform?

Nobody! That's the nice thing about a wiki everybody can write and edit articles and can help to improve and correct them! So if you found a simple spelling error, just click on the edit button and correct it yourself. We thank you for your help improving our database.

How do I help you to add information to the encyclopedia?


Where can I find help editing articles?

Try our Help section. If you don't find an answer there, write it to the discussion page of the help section.