When you use a copyrighted work under Creative Commons, you agree to one of six types of licenses
Royalty-free? Or rights-managed?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that some of these sites have royalty-free licenses, and others have what’s called “rights-managed” licenses.
- Royalty-free is essentially “buy once, use indefinitely.” You can use royalty-free songs in just about all manners of production, for as many productions, for as long as you like. A few of the most popular royalty free sites I’m familiar with include Pond5, PremiumBeat, and AudioJungle. You’ll notice that the rates on these sites can be as little as $12 to $40.
- Rights Managed licenses are more restrictive. They are typically for one song and one production. Whereas royalty-free sites have one price per song, rights-managed sites will change the price based on the license. The same song my cost $60 for use in a wedding video, but $500 if used in a local cable TV commercial, or a corporate promo video for a company with 50 or more employees. The rights managed sites I come across more often are Marmoset Music, Song Freedom (now FyrFly), MusicBed, and Triple Scoop Music.
As an avid podcaster who pretty much does it as a passion project, I don’t have the budget to license music for the episodes I produce. So I’ve turned to a resource that is not only great for music but applicable to all forms of copyrights: creative commons.
Creative Commons is an organization dedicated to providing worldwide licensing for copyright holders who want the ability to freely and easily license their work to others.
Creative Commons licenses
- Attribution (CC BY): This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the copyright holder’s work, even commercially, as long as they give credit for the original creation.
- Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA): This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the copyright holder’s work, even for commercial purposes, as long as they give credit and license their new creations under the identical terms. All new works 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.
- Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND): This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the copyright holder.
- Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC): This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the copyright holder’s work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge the copyright holder and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA): This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the copyright holder’s work non-commercially, as long as they give credit and license their new creations under the identical terms.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND): This license is the most restrictive, only allowing others to download the copyright holder’s works and share them with others as long as they give credit. They can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.
As I mentioned earlier, I use CC music in my podcasts, but I also used it in my documentary short.
Creative Commons does extremely important work. It allows content creators to share and use copyrighted material in a way that is fair and equitable to both the copyright holders and the users of those copyrights. You can learn more about them at .
As a filmmaker (documentary or otherwise) who wants to use other people’s copyrights in your work, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself: