FAQ For Educators

Welcome to the section of our FAQ for educators and students! If you like, watch our webinar on the topic, click through our slide deck from the presentation, or peruse our FAQ below. If you have specific questions about licenses, check out our License Guide.

Using Music from the Free Music Archive in Education with Creative Commons expert Jane Park from Free Music Archive

Is it OK to use a song from the Free Music Archive for my class project?

In most cases, the answer to this question will be “Yes, as long as you observe the terms of the Creative Commons license, and the content is appropriate for your project’s intended audience.” Creative Commons licenses are given to pieces of music by the creators of the works. Please see our FAQ about how to find license information on artist/song pages and how the licenses work.

Is there an age restriction for using the Free Music Archive?

Yes. According to our Terms of Use, we ask that FMA users & members are 13 or older. However, if an instructor wishes to download a selection and share FMA content with a younger audience, they may do so at their own discretion.

Are Creative Commons licenses legal?

Yes. In more than 80 jurisdictions around the world, Creative Commons licenses have been cleared for use and have, as of 2014, been applied to more than 800 million works worldwide.

Is the music I find on the FMA free of copyright restrictions?

Some are, but a lot aren't. Works that aren't subject to any copyright restrictions are said to be in the public domain, which means you're free to do pretty much whatever you want with them. Some tracks in the FMA could be in the public domain for a couple of reasons. First, it's possible that its copyright term has expired (generally, until 2018, only works made prior to 1923 fall into this category). Second, it's possible that the work’s rights-holders have waived all their rights using a CC0 dedication.

Most recorded music, however (including much of what you'll find here) is copyrighted. That’s why Creative Commons licenses are so useful - they serve to allow some uses of a work without further written permission from an artist. Since Creative Commons is relatively new and expired copyrights on things are mostly from the early 20th century, there’s a wide gap between the two, and much of the content produced between 1923 and today falls under a general “All Rights Reserved” form of copyright.

How can I tell which license is being used for a specific track?

First, click on the song title. This can be done from our search page, from a mix, or on the homepage. After you click the song title, you will find more info on the track page on the far right column or a link that says “License & More Info,” which will take you to a page displaying the license information for a given track.

Are students allowed to use works shared under “No Derivatives” licenses?

Yes. If a work is being used verbatim in a project and is not changed in any way - in this case, if the student is making a podcast and isn’t remixing or otherwise altering the audio of the track - the use is allowed under Creative Commons with proper attribution/citation. If they want to remix the song, they cannot use a track licensed under “No Derivatives.” For further permission, the student should contact the artist who created the work to obtain permission.

How can students apply for licenses for their own work?

If they visit creativecommons.org/choose there will be a page that will guide them through the process of generating a license for their work. Students can also add the CC icon of their choosing to their work, to indicate how others can use it for themselves.

How should I give attribution in a project?

Every Creative Commons license requires giving appropriate credit; they all include, at the very least, “Attribution,” which means giving credit to the creator of the work.

This basically means you need to list the Title, Author, Source & License associated with the work (or TASL, if you are fond of acronyms). Here’s an example:

Music: "Tra-la-la" by Podington Bear
From the Free Music Archive

You can put this information in the credits of a video, on a webpage or blurb citing all of the works you used, or read/mention the credit information visually or verbally, depending on the format you’re using (ie - read the credits in a podcast or display them in a video).

How should I cite a Creative Commons work in my project?

If you need to cite a work in a particular style such as MLA, APA, or Chicago, please consult the style guide’s section on sound recordings and/or web resources, and include the relevant details to indicate how the work is licensed in your citation.

Is all content on the Free Music Archive suitable for all ages?

Though not all content is rated “G,” there are a wide variety of curators, compilations, and albums that are intended for general audiences or specific age groups, including educational and fun releases for children from curators like Kazoomzoom (more at the Internet Archive). We also have a wide variety of instrumental and classical music, which can be pleasant accompaniments for study time. Please use your own discretion when using the Free Music Archive. Sometimes songs are flagged as containing ‘explicit’ language, but we cannot screen everything that comes through our site.

Where can I find more information about Creative Commons resources for educators?

Creative Commons has a page on its site specifically about their educational resources and initiatives. There are also related projects like P2P University and Open Educational Resources for learners of all ages.

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.


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.

Special thanks to Jane Park at Creative Commons for helping with the webinar, slide deck, and this FAQ.