Sheet music theft - here's how to avoid it

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Sheet music theft - here's how to avoid it

Many people don't know that they may be committing theft when they copy texts from books or sheet music :

  • The conductor , who scans the necessary voices for his band's upcoming performance and sends them to the musicians,
  • the class teacher , who copies a song text from her teacher's copy for the next music lesson,
  • the music educator who uses copied notes for the musical accompaniment of a school celebration.

You become a thief - and don't know it?

They are all guilty of theft, even if they are completely unaware of it. The reproduction of sheet music (regardless of whether by photocopying or using other techniques, such as scanning, faxing, displaying on screens) is prohibited according to Section 53 Paragraph 4 of the Copyright Act without the consent of the author or the publisher! The ban on copying sheet music is a special feature of German copyright law, as the reproduction of copyrighted works or services for private purposes is generally permitted.

The reason for this is that the creator of the work, who has to live from the exploitation of his work, is deprived of his deserved wages, because he ultimately lives from the proceeds from the sale of his sheet music.

Anyone who is robbed in this way can make a claim for damages. The music publisher, as the trustee of the composers and lyricists, is even contractually obliged to do this. In addition, the prosecutor can impose fines - or even prison for up to a year.


  • a worried class teacher,
  • a well-meaning conductor,
  • a caring music educator

as a lawbreaker!

That's why we would like to clarify: photocopying music notes is theft and is always more expensive than legally purchasing them - certainly if you get caught doing it!

We recommend this information from the German Music Publishers Association to the attention of our valued customers.

Whether good-natured or negligent, theft is still theft!


However, music schools have the option of producing and using photocopies of sheet music and song lyrics by concluding a simple license agreement. The VG Musikedition as the rights holder is thus fulfilling the wish of many music schools to enable a legal exception to the legally enshrined absolute ban on photocopying that meets practical requirements. You can find more information on the GEMA website .

Good to know

Only the re-copying of grades is permitted, and it does not matter whether the copying is done by hand, using a PC or a typewriter. But: Even what has been copied may only be copied and not copied!