FAQ For Videos & Films
I want to use a song from FMA in my video. Can I do this?
Yes! Free Music Archive offers you an immense catalog of original music all by independent artists across the globe. Media makers like yourself roam FMA every day to find great tracks to add to their projects; videos, vlogs, short films, documentaries, and more!
Artists upload their music on FMA under Creative Commons Licenses, especially for media makers to be able to use for free while the artists remain the rightsholders. It's important to get to know the Creative Commons Licenses conditions to see which ones match your project:
- To search and find the right tracks faster
- To understand and follow the conditions correctly
- To share and publish your project appropriately
You can read more about the licenses found on FMA in the License Guide and here below.
How can I search for songs by license type?
You can search for songs that allow for remixing, use in video, and commercial use by using the FMA Search Filters.
- Click on the License filter
- Select the specific use you need
- Click on the orange Search button to see the results
If you are in a hurry, there is also a collection of mixes of songs for video use on the FMA curator page: Music for Video
How can I search for songs by duration?
You can search for songs by duration, use in video, and commercial use by using the FMA Search Filters.
- Click on Duration Filter
- Select how many minutes you need
- Click on the orange Search button to see the results
What are the Creative Commons conditions I need to know before I download a song on FMA?
FMA artists give permission for the general use of their work by attaching licenses to their songs. A license is an agreement that prescribes the terms under which a copyrighted work may be used. Just about everything in the Free Music Archive is protected under copyright. Many of the licenses that cover works on the Free Music Archive are Creative Commons (or “CC”) licenses, which act as an addendum to copyright, not as an exception to it.
BY - Attribution
All Creative Commons Licenses require the user to give attribution/credit, in exchange for using the song.
Proper attribution in a video:
- Title: On A Saturday / https://freemusicarchive.org/music/J_Hacha_de_Zola/icaro-nouveau/on-a-saturday/
- Author: J Hacha de Zola / https://freemusicarchive.org/music/J_Hacha_de_Zola/
- Source: Free Music Archive / https://freemusicarchive.org/music/J_Hacha_de_Zola/icaro-nouveau/on-a-saturday/
- License: CC BY / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Proper attribution in a video requires that this credit appears in the video as well as in any written blurb that accompanies the work.
NC - Non-Commercial
Under the “Non-Commercial” condition, tracks cannot be licensed for use in commercial endeavours, including videos, without express written permission from the artist. Commercial uses include fundraising videos, such as Kickstarter videos and non-profit fundraising pitches, because they are intended to result in commercial gain.
To get permission to use a non-commercially licensed track for commercial purposes, please contact the artist for more information or to get a different license.
ND - No Derivatives
Under the “No Derivatives” condition, tracks cannot be licensed for use in videos without written permission from the artist, because syncing a track to visual media is considered making a “Derivative Work” or adaptation.
Please contact the artist to obtain further permission before using any track marked “No Derivatives” in a video project or adaptation. If you have difficulty tracking down the artist, you may need to use a different piece of music for your project or contact the FMA team.
For more on what is and isn't a derivative work, see the Creative Commons FAQ, "Does my use constitute a derivative work or an adaptation?" or check out the legal definitions here.
SA - Share Alike
Under the “ShareAlike” condition, users are required to license their own derivative work such as a video with the identical license, to keep the CC license intact.
To get permission to use a song without adhering to the Share-Alike terms, please contact the artist for more information or to get a different license.
Creative Commons licenses that include all terms, such as CC BY-NC-ND, requires
- May not be used for commercial purposes
- May not be used in video or other derivative works
CC0 - Public Domain
Tracks, marked with a “PD” public domain mark and “CC0” are, as far as we know, free from copyright restrictions, but they may be subject to local statutes and other restrictions.
You can read more about the licenses found on FMA in the License Guide
How do I know which license I'm dealing with?
On the left side of the track page, you will see the specific Creative Commons license attached to the track.
What does proper attribution look like in a video?
Any license that includes BY requires “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, here’s an example:
- On A Saturday / https://freemusicarchive.org/music/J_Hacha_de_Zola/icaro-nouveau/on-a-saturday/
- J Hacha de Zola / https://freemusicarchive.org/music/J_Hacha_de_Zola/
- Free Music Archive / https://freemusicarchive.org/
- CC BY / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Creative Commons resources also suggest that you cite your sources in a way that is appropriate to the small, meaning that you are encouraged to include attribution in the style appropriate to a music video or credits for a motion picture.
I don’t want to (or can’t) give attribution/credit in my video. What can I do?
We recommend that you use our high-quality one-stop music licensing shop Tribe of Noise PRO. When you buy a license here attribution is not required and we guarantee you can use the song without any legal worries.
Otherwise, since most of the licenses on FMA require attribution, it is tricky. You have at least two other options:
- you can try to use a public domain track (which can be difficult, in itself, for a variety of reasons)
- you can work out licensing permission with the artist, and use the contact form on their artist page to reach out
How can I apply a Creative Commons license to my video (especially if this is required by a ShareAlike license)?
Creative Commons licenses are super easy to add to your own work. Visit https://creativecommons.org/choose/ and fill in the fields. Then you’ll get an embeddable bit of code that will let everyone know how you have licensed the work and what you’re comfortable with others doing with it. If you can’t embed the code, please place the license in an obvious, easy-to-find spot.
In cases where you use a “ShareAlike” song, you must apply a Creative Commons license to your video that is identical to the song you've used.
- To indicate how you’ve licensed your video, you are required to put this information in the credits and/or description online and in the liner notes of your release.
- On YouTube, there’s only a CC-BY option if you want to let users know you’ve licensed a work in a particular way (so it’s probably best to list it as All Rights Reserved if you are sharing it under any other license and clearly note your license choice so that users don’t get confused).
- On Vimeo, you can choose any CC license to go along with the video, which may make it clearer for anyone who wants to view, share, or remix your work.
I cannot use the song in my project due to the CC License connected to the song, what now?
FMA artists have made it easy to get in touch:
- Go to the contact section of the artist page
- Email the artist of the track for further permission
For more information about the specific license associated with a work, click on the name of the license for a more thorough (and legal) description at the Creative Commons website.
I used Creative Commons music in my video, but it was flagged by YouTube's Content ID system. What now?
Some artists on the FMA have started using YouTube's Content ID system to protect their intellectual property. This use does not conflict with the terms of a Creative Commons license. Since YouTube's Content ID prohibits independent artists from uploading and managing their own music, it makes FMA artists highly vulnerable to this possibility.
When an artist licenses their music using Creative Commons on Free Music Archive, they retain their copyright but extend permissions for you to use their copyrighted content according to the terms of the license. Free Music Archive cannot and does not license music, so we cannot change the terms of the licenses, FMA cannot address Content ID claims directly.
When your video is flagged, reach out to the artists themselves. Since artists can't manage their catalogs in YouTube's Content ID system directly, some may not even realize it's being claimed (or by whom). Some artists are happy to waive the third-party rights warning for your specific video, upon seeing that you have correctly followed the terms of the license (i.e., you've given credit, shared alike, when necessary, followed non-commercial use guidelines, etc).
What are the differences between "International" licenses and ones for specific countries like "The United States"?
All Creative Commons licenses apply worldwide. In past versions of these licenses (versions 3.0 and earlier), they would specify a country or specific jurisdiction to reflect the local nuances in laws. Both the country-specific (ported) and the international licenses are intended to be legally effective everywhere.
The latest suite of licenses (4.0) has been drafted with particular attention to the need for international enforceability.
What's the deal with the FMA Retired Licenses?
There were a handful of other licenses on FMA in the past, but most have been retired, merged with Creative Commons licenses, or are otherwise uncommon. These licenses are not available on FMA anymore but are still applicable. The CC Licenses listed above are available for FMA artists to license. If you do encounter a work not licensed under the ones above, contact the artist or the FMA team.
This license allows ONLY for personal downloading, listening, and streaming. Many artists are willing to allow for non-commercial broadcasts etc but require further written permission. For more info, read the full text of the license.
How to use it:
- No video, no redistribution, no broadcast/podcast, etc.
- More permissions must be obtained directly from the artist
Past FMA for Videos Publications
- Webinar on music for video
- Slide Guide for music for video
- A detailed section on the use of Content ID and how you can remove the third-party claim from your video.
- There is more info on YouTube's FAQ, as well.
Special thanks to Elliot Harmon for his assistance with the webinar.
FMA provides this information on an “as-is” basis. The 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. The FAQ provides general information about legal topics; it does not provide individual legal advice.
Creative Commons and the FMA can't give you definitive answers about particular cases, and they can’t modify or alter license terms to suit your needs. Creative Commons simply makes available a group of pre-written licenses, and they don’t know anything about the specific works that use the licenses. We encourage users to connect with artists and labels to get specific answers about intended usage, licensing and any other information you may need that goes beyond the scope of this FAQ or the license information available online.