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License Guide

What's A Music License?

A music license is an agreement between the creator of music and/or rights holder and the user who wants to use this original music in specific setting, for a specific purpose and in a specific manner.

Most of the music licenses you will find on FMA are Creative Commons licenses. Important: CC licenses do not replace copyright. FMA artists can upload their own music and select a specific CC license themselves. Free Music Archive does not own copyright to these original works. FMA can not license original work to you for commercial, private or other use. FMA cannot alter nor change terms of a music license. It is up to the decision and permission of the rights holder / artist/ creator.

Another form of music licenses is "royalty-free". This means the rights holder states the song is not managed by a 3rd party collecting royalties. Original, safe to use music licensed as "royalty-free / all rights included" can be found on Tribe of Noise PRO. In this case the songs are curated, relevant meta data is added (easy search), Tribe of Noise guarantees the legallity of the license and helps you in the event of copyright claims. They do charge you a small fee. More about Tribe of Noise's pricing model.

 

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 beyond the conditions of the license, you must contact the artist and seek permission:

  1. Get acquainted with Creative Commons licenses terms and conditions first.
  2. Find the specific CC license conditions on the song page of the FMA artist
  3. Do you need different conditions for your project? Contact the artist to explain how you want to use the song and ask for a written consent to do so.


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 enables users to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon an original work, even commercially, as long as the creator is credited for the original work.


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, read more: Best practices for Attribution. Further permissions must be obtained directly from the artist.


CC BY-SA
: Attribution-ShareAlike. This license enables users to remix, tweak, and build upon an original work, even for commercial purposes, as long as the creator is credited 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 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 the creator is credited. 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 creators must be credited.

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 the artist is credited and a new creations are licensed 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 the artist is credited, the use is non-commercial and the work is passed along unchanged.


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 (uploaded before 2020)

Free Music Archive had 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!