Digitally Published Sheet Music


 Endangered large

Sheet music licensed and published in various digital formats, subject to copyright restrictions and often protected by digital rights management technologies.

Digital Species: Sound and Vision

Trend in 2022:

No change No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within one year.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve | Inevitability

It would require a small effort to address losses in this group, requiring the application of proven preservation tools or techniques.


This entry includes all manner of published sheet music, including choral works, orchestral works, scores published in different forms such as PDF, PDF/A and XML.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Encryption; uncertainty over intellectual property rights; uncertain business model of publisher; lack of legal deposit mandate.

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Rights management conducive to preservation; held in a trusted repository; legislation in place such as legal deposit enabling copying.

2023 Review

In 2019, this entry was added as a subset of a previous 2017 entry, ‘Digital Music Production and Sharing,’ which was split to draw attention to the different challenges faced by the different forms. This entry focuses on digitally published sheet music, which often takes the form of PDF and PDF/A, and E-Book formats.

The 2021 Jury made no changes to this entry classification or trend but did comment on the importance of legislation (such as legal deposit) to manage associated risks. The 2022 Taskforce noted no change to the trend (they agreed these risks remain on the same basis as before).

The 2023 Council agreed with the Endangered with the overall risks remaining on the same basis as before (no change to the trend) though noted an increase in imminence of action.

Additional Comments

The commercial value of these materials should be a protection against their loss, and the history of the music industry indicates that sheet music continues to have value, so even if an individual organization fails or its DRM servers go offline, and some music becomes inaccessible, it is not lost. However, the difficulties of archiving DRM-locked files remain real.

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