Using Copyrighted and Library Content

Find out how you can legally and ethically use copyrighted and library content in your academic research, instruction, essays & writings, and creative projects. Legal disclaimer: this copyright guide is meant for informational & educational purposes only.

Library Research Guide

Creative Commons Licensing


This page will introduce you to how to incorporate music in your videos by using music that has Creative Commons Licenses (CCL). This is the second subpage and second step to using music in videos in a legal and ethical manner..

"Some Rights Reserved"

Traditional copyright means that all rights are reserved (or all the exclusive rights of copyright holders). Watch this video for an explanation of those exclusive rights. Creative Commons forfeits many of those rights and is some rights reserved.

CCL acts as an easy way for composers and song writers to indicate that they want others to use their music, so long as they comply with the terms of the CCL.

There are six CCLs, and there is also a seventh "license" for individuals to waive all rights under copyright. This waiving of all rights is called the CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication and may also display its corresponding icon:

Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain Dedication Icon

Music labeled with a CCL is free (no need to purchase) and also free to reuse and share in your own work. The license acts as a way for the copyright holder to communicate to others what they can and cannot do with their copyrighted content.

The copyright holder still retains their copyright, though. They simply ask that others comply with the terms of the license. For example, all the licenses require attribution, which is as simple as providing a citation and/or reference list to the creator(s) of the work.

Find CCL Music

Search the Commons

With the Search the Commons tool, you can find openly available music that has either been dedicated to the public domain or has a Creative Commons License (CCL) attached.

Pay attention to labels and language for each music file that you find. You want to look for language that indicates it is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Other Resources

The Free Music Archive provides free music to its users and the public. The license attached to each song or piece of music, typically a CCL, is displayed on the right-hand side.

Here is an example of what will display:

Screenshot of Free Music Archive song page with an arrow pointing to the license and the text "On the right-hand side, select "LICENSE & MORE INFO"

Screenshot of Free Music Archive song page with an arrow pointing to the CCL and the text "The license and its icon will then display. This song is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA."

CCL vs. Royalty-Free

If any of the platforms or websites you use state that the song or piece is "royalty-free," that does not necessarily mean it has a CCL. CCL and royalty-free are not the same. Read the Royalty-Free page for more information.