In this age of copyright confusion and media richness, music educators may feel conflicted when it comes to finding useful resources without legal issues attached. However, there are some gems out there on the Internet which can be used by Music instructors or others without fear.
The primary tactic, of course, involves concentrating old music old enough that is doesn’t carry copyright. An excellent site for free sheet music of the classics is Mutopia. Mutopia is a project that has over 1700 pieces of sheet music by the likes of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Handel, Mozart, etc. This volunteer-driven project has placed these works in their online archive for free download. Files are in pdf format. If you would like to support the Mutopia Project, then you can order high-quality prints from the website.
For those of you teaching classes like Music Appreciation, there is always a need for audio samples. In this case, it is audio clips, and not sheet music that is needed, and Classic Cat is there to help. Under current copyright law, Fur Elise, the musical composition is too old to be copyrighted, but any musician’s recorded performance of it is copyrighted by that musician at the moment of recording. Classic Cat is an archive of performances which have been donated by musicians for free use.
Classic Cat also has information on composers, sheet music downloads, and other bits that may be useful for the Music instructor or the student musician.