Sure, Beethoven has been dead for almost 200 years, and his music is in the public domain. That doesn’t mean you currently have the ability to share the 9th Symphony with friends, or use the Moonlight Sonata as the background music for your YouTube video. The problem is that there are no public domain recordings of his work. The “Musopen” project is attempting to change this.
From Ars Technica:
A radio host recently “referred to me as a Communist,” says Musopen’s Aaron Dunn. Music professors berate him by e-mail because his project is “like Napster.” Dunn’s crime? Setting music free.
In fact, though, Dunn’s version of “freedom” looks little like Napster. Instead of distributing a recording without permission, Dunn raises money, hires orchestras to record terrific classical music that has fallen into the public domain, and then makes those recordings available to anyone, for any reason.
To drum up the excitement and donor base needed to give Musopen ongoing life, Dunn put the project on Kickstarter, seeking $11,000 to “hire an internationally renowned orchestra to record and release the rights to: the Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky symphonies. We have price quotes from several orchestras and are ready to hire one, pending the funds.”