up close image of record copyright free music audio network


It’s a hard task trying to comprehend the world of copyright – especially for those of us who never went to law school. It’s a realm of legal jargon, ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and odd exceptions, all of which are far from straightforward.

Which is why we’re here to explain everything you need to know about the arcane term ‘copyright free music’. Don’t worry, we’re going to ease you in. 

What is music copyright?

To get to grips with copyright free music, we first must understand what music copyright is. 

  • Music copyright is a legal device that grants the writer/composer of a piece of music rights to the original composition. 
  • Copyright is an automatic process that covers songs of all musical styles – from soul to fanfares to breakbeat.
  • The rights allow the owner to copy, adapt, distribute and sell their intellectual property in any way they please. 
  • For composed music, music copyright lasts throughout the owner’s lifetime + 70 years – the same as for books, paintings and other literary and artistic works. 

What is copyright free music?

Copyright free music usually refers to tracks that are no longer under copyright restrictions and are available in the public domain. Commonly, the reason that the composition is free from copyright restrictions is because the copyright has expired. 

What’s the difference between copyright free music and royalty-free music? 

  • Royalty-free music involves the customer purchasing a one-off licence to have unlimited use of the song. 
  • If a customer purchases royalty-free music, it means they don’t have to pay a fee to the copyright owner.
  • Copyright free music means that the composition is no longer under copyright restrictions, usually because the copyright has expired. 
  • This means that in most cases, royalty-free music is still under copyright restrictions.
  • Just like royalty-free, Audio Network offers a single-cost licence which allows you to use music without having to worry about paying anything else further down the line. 

What’s the difference between copyright free music and non-copyrighted music? 

  • Copyright means the owner has to provide approval for their intellectual property to be used by anyone other than themselves and any co-owners.
  • Copyright protects the owner’s work, even if it’s never registered with the copyright office. 
  • Copyright can be sold, transferred and inherited, but the copyright still remains.
  • Therefore, non-copyrighted music doesn’t exist. Non-copyrighted music is an incorrect term that someone may use to refer to royalty-free or free-to-use music.

What’s the difference between copyright free music and licence-free music?

  • Copyright free music refers to tracks that are no longer under copyright restrictions. 
  • Licence-free music usually refers to music under Creative Commons, which is technically still a licence. 
  • Creative Commons is a system that allows individuals to use ‘rights reserved’ music for free. 
  • Musicians and composers can use a Creative Commons licence to allow people to legally share and build upon the tracks online and use them in their content. 
  • The licence enables the person who has created the music to retain their copyright, while others make use of it.
  • Every Creative Commons licence works worldwide and lasts as long as applicable copyright lasts.

What are the pros of using copyright free music for videos? 

  • Copyright free music – also known as public domain music – comes with no strings attached. 
  • Copyright free music can be incorporated into your content without having to worry about any restrictions.
  • Copyright free music can often be found on the internet free of charge.

What are the downsides of using copyright free music for videos? 

  • Copyright free music is rarely contemporary. This is because copyright free music is usually no longer under copyright restrictions because the rights have expired.
  • It can be challenging to figure out if a composition is copyright free or if it’s under a Creative Commons licence. 
  • You may find that fellow creatives are also using the same track. This can lead to repetitive content.

Why is Audio Network the perfect solution? 

  • Audio Network provides creatives with over 175,000 specially composed tracks that are not copyright free but are pre-cleared and licenced. 
  • Audio Network charges a single, low-cost price for each track, which provides you with a licence to broadcast the track anywhere across the world.
  • Our expansive catalogue allows you to create content that feels unique, fresh and different from your competitors – no matter what production genre you’re in, from creating a historical documentary, sit-com or Youtube vlog.
  • We work with the top composers and musicians to ensure that each of our tracks is high-quality and completely original. 
  • You can use our intelligent search tool to find songs of any mood or emotion, from cold to heroic and even slow motion, and any instrumentation – including metallic, tom-toms and military percussion.

See also in our Music Glossary:
License free music
Music copyright
Needle drop music
Music licensing
Stock music

This page was originally published on 29/06/2020 and updated on 03/07/2020

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