License Guide

What's A Music License?
Put simply, a license is an agreement between a music creator or their representative (such as a record label) and someone who wants to use their music (at an establishment, in a broadcast or other program, or in a film, for example). There is no standard licensing fee or rate; license rates are often agreed upon by the artist and the licensor on an individual basis. Some artists, such as Kevin Macleod, offer standard licenses online for using their works beyond the scope of the Creative Commons license already on their work.

Music licensing is intended to ensure that the artists are fairly compensated for certain uses of their work. Since the Free Music Archive doesn't own copyright to the songs on our site, we can't license them to you for commercial, private or other use. We also can't change the terms of the license on a song page to suit your needs or desires. You will have to contact the artist and work it out with them.

How Can I License Music From Your Site?
If the work is under a Creative Commons license, you may use the work as long as you abide by the license conditions, which are outlined below and in more detail on the Creative Commons website. To license music from the Free Music Archive beyond the permissions of the license, you must contact the artist and work it out with them. The Free Music Archive is a discovery tool; we are not a licensing portal or a web store.

To find an artist's contact information, we recommend looking on the FMA's artist or album pages, or following links on artist pages to social media and personal websites, which often have the most up-to-date contact information. If those are not readily available, we recommend a basic web search. If you still come up empty-handed, contact us and we can try to track someone down for you. Unfortunately, we cannot always find contact information. We recommend that you attempt to first find a piece of music that is already licensed for the type of work you're doing.

In order to determine if the song you wish to use is licensed for the type of use you intend, check out this guide to Creative Commons licenses, below:


Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons licenses are the most common sort of license on our site. They are designed to fit 'on top of' traditional copyright - meaning, the artists are sharing their works with these provisions; they still own the copyright to their work. When you see one of these symbols on our site next to a song, it tells you how you may (or may not) use the track. Here are their descriptions, courtesy of the Creative Commons website!


CC BY
: Attribution. This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

How to use it: You can put this song in a video or other derivative work. You can use it for commercial purposes. You must credit the artist. More permissions must be obtained directly from the artist.


CC BY-SA
: Attribution-ShareAlike. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.

How to use it: You must credit the artist. You can put this song in a video or other derivative work. You can use it for commercial purposes. You must add the same license (CC BY-SA) to your video, remix or derivative work. More permissions must be obtained directly from the artist.



CC BY-NC: Attribution-NonCommercial. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you. Although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

How to use it: You must credit the artist. You can put this song in a video or other derivative work. You cannot use it for commercial purposes. A commercial use is one primarily intended for commercial advantage or monetary compensation. You may NOT use this for fundraising, advertising, or promoting a product or service without further permission, even if you're a nonprofit organization. More permissions must be obtained directly from the artist.



CC BY-ND: Attribution-NoDerivatives. This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, and they must credit you.

How to use it: You must credit the artist. You cannot put this song in a video or other derivative work. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute, publish, share, or post the modified material. Syncing a track to video/moving images constitutes a derivative work, which is prohibited by this license. More permissions must be obtained directly from the artist.



CC BY-NC-SA
: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

How to use it: You must credit the artist. You can put this song in a video or other derivative work. You cannot use it for commercial purposes. A commercial use is one primarily intended for commercial advantage or monetary compensation. You may NOT use this for fundraising, advertising, or promoting a product or service without further permission, even if you're a nonprofit organization. You must add the same license (CC BY-NC-SA) to your video, remix or derivative work. More permissions must be obtained directly from the artist.



CC BY-NC-ND
: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives. This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

How to use it: You must credit the artist. You cannot put this song in a video or other derivative work. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute, publish, share, or post the modified material. Syncing a track to video/moving images constitutes a derivative work, which is prohibited by this license. You cannot use it for commercial purposes. A commercial use is one primarily intended for commercial advantage or monetary compensation. You may NOT use ithis for fundraising, advertising, or promoting a product or service without further permission, even if you're a nonprofit organization. More permissions must be obtained directly from the artist.

 


CC0
: Public Domain Dedication/No Rights Reserved. The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.

How to use it: You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission. Note: CC0 can only be applied by the rights holder. CC0 does not cover works in the public domain whose copyright has expired; works in the public domain due to expired copyright may still protected by state or local statutes. The information regarding a track’s public domain status is to the best of our knowledge and should not be considered authoritative.

Other Licenses

The Free Music Archive has its own special license for works that cannot be released with a Creative Commons license. It is called the FMA-Limited Download Only license.


FMA-Limited
: Download Only. This license allows only for personal downloading, listening and streaming.

How to use it: no video, no redistribution, no broadcast/podcast, etc. More permissions must be obtained directly from the artist (many are willing to allow for noncommercial broadcast etc, but require further written permission). For more info, read the full text of the license. 

There are a handful of other licenses on our site, but many have been retired, merged with Creative Commons licenses, or are otherwise uncommon. You can find more information about these rare licenses by clicking the link at the far right of an album or track page.

Why does this FAQ leave so much ambiguous? Can't you just tell me the answer?
We wish! Music copyright is one of the most complicated areas of copyright law. Creative Commons licensing is an attempt to offer permissions you don't need to ask for, as long as you follow the license terms explained here.


FURTHER READING
You may find our article, "Not All Music on FMA is Licensed for Video," helpful. Give it a quick read!

DISCLAIMER
The FAQ provides general information about legal topics; it does not provide individual legal advice. The FMA provides this information on an “as-is” basis. Use of this FAQ does not create an attorney-client relationship between the FMA and the user, and the FMA disclaims liability for damages resulting from its use.

 

Many thanks to Jane Park at Creative Commons for her assistance in compiling this resource!