A lot of content creators don’t fully understand what Royalty Free license means.

Ask 10 people and you will get 10 different answers. From free to use, to no copyright, and everything in between. This blog will set straight some misconceptions about Royalty Free and explain what it really means.

Let us define first what Royalty Free means.

Royalty Free license is a type of license that gives users the right to use a copyrighted material without having to compensate the owner for recurring use, per each copy or volume sold, or some time period of use. In short, you can use a copyrighted material for as long as you want.

Let’s say,  you purchase a Royalty Free Music license for a video on your website. You don’t have to purchase additional licenses every time you make a new video.


Does Royalty Free mean that a work is for free?

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The answer is NO.

Many people believe that Royalty Free means no license or fee should be paid to the copyright owner.

Just because there’s a word “free” in Royalty Free that doesn’t mean that a work is free of cost. Don’t let the Free mislead you. Royalty Free means “free of royalty” and not free of cost.

Some people, especially on YouTube, offer free music referring to it as “Royalty Free”. Technically, it is Royalty Free because you don’t have to pay additional fees to acquire it but it’s not what Royalty Free license was intended to mean in the first place.

It would be right to categorize it as a Public Domain content or a content under Creative Commons License which will be discussed at the latter part of the blog.


How does Royalty Free differ with Rights Managed?

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Oftentimes, Royalty Free license is always associated with rights managed license. The truth is their meanings are opposite.

Rights Managed license comes with various usage restrictions, such as time, location or medium, for what purpose, and more.

In this license, a user is allowed for a one-time use only of a copyrighted material. If the user wants to use the material for other uses, an additional license needs to be purchased.

Unlike in Royalty Free, unlimited and multiple uses are allowed.


Does Royalty Free mean Copyright Free?

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Again, the answer is NO.

Copyright Free content is certainly royalty free because there are no royalties, to begin with. Works in the Public Domain are copyright free.

On the other hand, Royalty Free content is under copyright. The owner just gives permission to a user to use their work under certain terms or restrictions.


Different Licenses on Free Content/ Materials


As we mentioned earlier, a work should not be referred to as Royalty Free when it is free of cost. It could be categorized either as Public Domain or under Creative Commons.


Public Domain

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Copyrights eventually expire and the owner will no longer have exclusive rights. All works that are not protected under copyright law is considered Public Domain.

Public Domain is the complete absence of any law allowing ownership of a property. When no one can find any law which gives them a legal claim to that property then it will be considered as Public Domain.

Users can use a work under Public Domain in any way they imagine. They can use, copy, reproduce, publish or sell it commercially any way they like without restrictions.


Creative Commons

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Works that are free for use with certain terms are usually under Creative Commons licenses. This license enables free distribution of a copyrighted work.

Creative Commons license provides flexibility to the author regarding the terms on their work. It also protects users and redistributors from concerns of copyright infringement so long as they adhere to the conditions that are specified in the license.


Creative Commons Licenses


Attribution (CC BY)

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This is the most flexible among all the licenses offered. Users can distribute, remix, tweak and build upon a work even for commercial purposes so long as you credit the author for the original creation.


Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

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Under this license, the same rules as the Attribution License apply except that all modified work should be under the same license.


Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)

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All works under this license can be redistributed as long as you provide credits to the author without any modification.


Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)

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Users can distribute, remix, tweak and build upon a work non-commercially and must give proper credits to the author. Derivative works could be on a different license.


Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

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This license allows users to distribute, remix, tweak and build upon a work non-commercially with attribution and should license their new creations under the same terms.


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)

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This is the most restrictive among the six main licenses. Under this license, users are only allowed to download and share with others as long as there’s attribution to the author but can’t change it or use it commercially.




To wrap everything up:

  • Royalty Free license permits a user the right to use a copyrighted material without having to compensate the author for recurring use.

  • Royalty Free doesn’t mean that a work is free of cost

  • Royalty Free license is way different from Rights Managed license because it limits users to with various restrictions and requires them to purchase an additional license for other uses of material.

  • Royalty Free doesn’t mean that a material is Copyright Free.

  • Free materials, such as music and video, should not be labeled under Royalty Free license but should be categorized as Public Domain or Under Creative Commons.

These are the main things that you need to know about licenses. We hope that we were able to fully explain the common misconceptions about the meaning of Royalty Free.

Do you still have questions about Royalty Free? Comment down below.


If you are in need of Royalty Free music, check out our previous blog to know which websites you can visit and search for it.