Creative Commons is a great idea for those, like me, who want to share their work with the masses of artists out there who share their works as well. But not all CC licenses are made equal – and make sure you understand what CC isn’t…

#1 – Creative Commons Music is not Royalty Free

What’s a royalty? It’s a payment made to the author of a piece of music when it is used in a production. This is kind of like a licensing fee, except the payment is not made directly to the author, but instead generally through 3rd-party collection agencies. As a filmmaker, you would generally be required to notify the collection agency in question and pay a set royalty fee to cover this cost.

‘Royalty-free’ music means you don’t have to pay this royalty fee – effectively, the continued use of the music in your project is free for the entirety of it’s life. This sounds quite a lot like some license structures for Creative Commons – but be careful. For instance, my CC license of choice allows you guys to use my music in a royalty & license free fashion, as long as your project is non-commercial, and you credit me. If your project turns commercial – my music is no longer royalty free. So be careful – each CC license is different, so be sure to check before you use any CC music in your production.

#2 – Creative Commons Music is not the same as Public Domain

CC music is definitely not public domain, and depending on the type of license, you may not be able to edit, sample or modify the music however way you wish, nor may you be able to distribute the music to your friends and internet buddies however you like.

Again, check the CC license you are playing with. My license actually DOES allow you to play with my music any way you wish, and distribute it however you like – BUT – you must credit me when you release the new version. Some licenses forbid any changes to the music whatsoever. Regarding distribution, some licenses enforce a ‘Share Alike’ rule, meaning if the original author distributed their music freely and allowed commercial use of their music (for example) – any derivatives you make must also be distributed the same way.

Be Careful, and Be Responsible

Creative Commons is great – allowing tons more people to use great music in their productions, protecting composers at the same time. But just be aware of the different types of CC licenses, and how you are required to use them. For more info, check out creativecommons.org.

-s