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Everything You Need to Know About Non Copyright Music

Drew Gula

Aug 8, 2022

Anyone who works in video production will, at some point, need music. It might be finding the perfect track for a client project, whether that’s a wedding video or a social media ad. It might also be that you need music for a short film, a vlog, or some other personal video.

Either way, you’re going to want great music that isn’t going to cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a single-use license. (The closer the price gets to $0, the better, right?) And part of that is knowing which types of music for video exist out there, and which types you can legally use depending on your projects.

Maybe you’re looking for alternatives to royalty free music, or maybe you’re not super familiar with music licensing and/or music copyright law. Whatever the situation, we’re here to explain everything you need to know about non copyright music.


What exactly is non copyright music?

Well, we have two different paths to take if we want to answer this question. The short answer is that everyone usually groups “non copyright music” in with “royalty free music.” People searching for both things are usually interested in music they can use in projects.

The reality is that they are, technically speaking, different. If you’re interested in a specific definition of non copyright music, then you should think of it as music that is no longer protected by a copyright. Usually, that’s because the rights holder(s) has allowed the copyright to expire, which means the music literally becomes part of the public domain.

As a result, copyright free music is rare. Almost like a unicorn. A lot of public domain music is lower quality and not something creators or brands would want to use in video projects. And because losing copyright means losing any potential revenue from the song, that makes it unlikely that a high-quality song would enter the public domain and become free to use.

So while you might have thought you wanted to find non copyright music for your next video project, chances are good you actually want royalty free music.



Pro tip: We actually have a guide to royalty free music that breaks down the differences in why certain kinds of “free” music are named the way they are. Some of the information is similar to what we’re about to cover, but if you’d like to understand all of your options for finding great music for your video projects, it may help to read that article as well.

What types of music for video exist?

This is a bit of a trick question, because you could license any song to use in a video. The catch is that music licensing — at least the traditional sense — is expensive and time-consuming.

Think about the latest hit you heard on the radio. Anyone is free to try and find a licensing agreement to use that song in a video…but actually coming to an agreement can cost thousands of dollars and require months of negotiating.

It’s important to know that all music that exists falls under copyright law. In some cases, like music in the public domain, the copyright has lapsed and is no longer enforced. But if you want to use a song, then there’s almost a 99% chance that you’ll need to pay somebody in order to legally use that music in your videos.

Copyright free music and royalty free music both have “free” in the title, but the names can be deceptive. They aren’t free to download and use — it just means that someone else has covered the copyright fees, so all you have to do is pay to license them. 

And these companies also offer protection for the videos you use those songs in, guarding your content from copyright claims or DMCA strikes. It’s the sort of added benefit you can look forward to when you invest in getting music from a proven music library.

What about Creative Commons licensing?

The Creative Commons lives somewhere between “public domain” and “copyrighted content.” Think of it as a hub where artists, writers, musicians, etc. can collaborate and share content. 

However, most of the items in the Creative Commons do still fall under copyright, which is why each file download comes with certain caveats and restrictions. You’ll need to provide attribution — or in some cases even share ownership — with the owner of the song you want to download and use in your video.



This can make the Creative Commons a somewhat uncertain place to find music. Sure, you may be able to use music for “free.” But you’ll need to follow any specific guidelines requested by the owner of that copyrighted content, or else you run the risk of copyright infringement.

So while it may appear to be non copyright music you can use for free, Creative Commons music is still protected under copyright law. The rules around who can use that music are just a little different.

Further reading

At this point, you’re probably still a little unsure about what your best options are. Even once you understand the importance of music licensing and the seriousness of copyright law, you may  still wonder where to find — and license — great music for your videos.

Lucky for you, Soundstripe’s library has 8,000 royalty free songs across just about every genre you can think of. And the good news is that it’s all part of a subscription plan: Instead of paying $50 or even $500 to license a single song, you can get unlimited music licenses and downloads for as little as $9.99 / month.

Is it “free” like Creative Commons music? No, not really. But it’s access to music from Grammy-winning artists and producers for basically a large latte each month. We like to think of it as the best way to keep creators and filmmakers making their best video content.

If you’d like to learn more about some of our most popular playlists, here are some other guides you might find helpful: