Help:What's it all about?

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What is CPDL?

The Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL), is an Internet-based free sheet music website which specializes in choral music.

Begun in December 1998, CPDL is one of the world's largest free sheet music sites. The goal of CPDL is to host a large collection of music scores and other supporting files (such as midi or other sound files) which can be freely downloaded and used. Most of the scores on CPDL are modern editions based on older works whose copyright has lapsed (or which are otherwise in the public domain), but some scores are newly composed and offered for download by the composer.

The primary goals of CPDL are:

  • To make vocal sheet music available for free.
  • To create a website for public domain music that includes only legally downloadable scores (we operate under United States law).
  • To allow development of a viable collaborative model for sheet music distribution.
  • To publish scores that are not otherwise commercially viable.
  • To create a website that catalogs a large number of other free sheet music websites.
  • To encourage (through the CPDL Bulletin Boards) sharing between lovers of vocal music.

As well as scores, you can use CPDL to find texts and lyrics, translations, and information about composers - all available for use under a license such as the CPDL license.

In August 2005, CPDL was ported to a wiki system. The following page details the transition:

How long has CPDL been around?

CPDL has been around since December 1998, when it was first created with a grand total of six scores available for download. It now boasts over 9 thousand individual scores.

Who runs the site?

Until August of 2008, CPDL was managed by Rafael Ornes, but has been transitioned to a new management team to manage CPDL as a 501(c)(3) corporation. CPDL is based in the US, but has board members in other countries as well.


In addition to this group of individuals, CPDL receives help from a variety of volunteers, some with Administrator privileges on the system, and others who help with miscellaneous categorization of works and other tasks without Administrator level access enabled on their accounts.

Most of the scores and information pages have been contributed by ordinary users. If you spot a mistake or would like to contribute something, you can easily edit any page. In this way, the site is improved gradually by the contributions of many users.

Is it really free?

Yes, it's really free. CPDL is a volunteer project and is not being done for profit (CPDL is a 501(c)(3) non-profit under US law.) All work on the site is done by volunteers, many of whom are ordinary users like yourself. Currently, CPDL is generously sponsored by donations from individuals and also by our corporate Sponsors and Affiliate(s) listed on the left side of our web pages. There are some costs involved in running the site and donations are very welcome. To make a contribution, click the Donations link here or in the navigation menu on the left.

How many scores are there?

CPDL indexes over 10,000 different works combining the efforts of over 500 contributors. Take a look at the Main Page to see newly added editions.

Can I make copies for my choir?

Yes, scores on CPDL are generally available for copying and use by choirs. In most cases there's no restriction on distributing, duplicating, or performing the music indexed here, and some score may allow additional uses as well. Check the specific type of license indicated on the specific edition you wish to use.

Some important things to note:

  • In some cases, the composer may request that you contact him or her if you decide to perform his or her work.
  • Some scores which are linked from CPDL, but which actually reside on other affiliated websites, may have further restrictions on use. Check the individual copyright statements on affiliated websites to find out what restrictions apply in each case.
  • In some situations, a work may be public domain under the laws of the US but may not yet have lapsed into the public domain under the laws of a user's own country. We recommend that users familiarize themselves with the general copyright laws of their own country.

What else can I do with CPDL editions?

Please check the type of copyright license on any specific edition you wish to use. For editions under the CPDL type of license, you can also generally make free use of editions hosted on CPDL including to make another edition (for example, transposing the piece); Your new edition must properly credit the original work and be released under the same type of licensing (e.g. the CPDL License. Always check the copyright instructions related to the specific score. We encourage posting your new edition if you feel others may benefit from it.

Thanks and Acknowledgements

CPDL would like to thank all the people and organizations who have supported our site.

This page is part of the CPDL Help system.
View main help index