Creative Commons music in videos: what is allowed and what is not
  • Often our music is used as soundtrack for audiovisual projects of many kinds. Unfortunately, in most cases it's done in a way that violates licensing terms. For example, credit is not given, NC music used in commercial projects, ND used in derivative works, and the SA condition is almost never respected. Inevitably, there will always be a certain percentage of piracy and abuse, but the big part of misuse is done unintentionally, out of misunderstanding. So, this post is intended to guide decent users, who respect artists' rights and strive to avoid their infringement.

    Below is an explanation in plain language of every clause of the CC licenses you can find on Jamendo:

        (cc) Some Rights Reserved - Attribution CC BY    (cc) Some Rights Reserved - Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND    (cc) Some Rights Reserved - Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC    (cc) Some Rights Reserved - Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA    (cc) Some Rights Reserved - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA    (cc) Some Rights Reserved - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND

    BY image - (By whom) Give credit to the artist.
    Attribution is a standard requirement of every CC license. You must credit the artist for his work and you must do it within the video. Placing a credit in a video description is not enough, because it won't be present in a downloaded copy of the video. The credit must include artist's name, track's name and possibly URL to the artist's web page.

    ND image - (No Derivatives) Don't alter, transform or build upon the music.
    The most misunderstood paragraph of the CC license. People think that as long as they don't cut or trim the music, they can use it in their videos, but this is not true. Music with ND clause in the license is for listening only. You can make unlimited copies of it on various mediums, include in playlists and compilations, embed on websites, use as music on hold or business background music, but you can't use it as soundtrack for videos, games, audiobooks, presentations, etc. As the legal code says:

                      " (you can) make such modifications as are technically necessary
                       to exercise the rights in other media and formats, but otherwise
                       you have no rights to make Adaptations."


    People often argue that using an unaltered song as background music in a video does not make it a derivative work, because the song itself is not recast or transformed in any way. That's where "Don't build upon this work" come into play. Coupling the music with additional content such as images, audio, or motion picture, is considered "building upon". The legal code is very explicit about it:

                      "For the avoidance of doubt, where the Work is a musical work,
                       performance or phonogram, the synchronization of the Work in
                       timed-relation with a moving image (“synching”) will be considered
                       an Adaptation for the purpose of this License."


    Thus, as far as "No Derivatives" licenses are concerned, video that uses an ND-licensed song violates the terms of the license.

    NC image - (Non Commercial) Don't use this work for commercial purposes.
    You can't use this music where money is involved. If you are a video editor who has been hired to create some clips, or if you monetize your YouTube videos by allowing ads, you can't use NC-licensed music. Also, you can't use it in any profit-oriented project like commercials, trailers, fund-raisers or any other project that promotes a product, service or company. NC music cannot be broadcasted by commercial radio stations or used as background music for businesses.

    SA image - (Share Alike) Distribute all derivative works under the same license.
    When SA clause is present in the license you must publish your video exactly under the same license as that of the music you used. You must indicate within the video that it's CC licensed and choose "Creative Commons" in the advanced video settings:

                                                      image

    So, before using a song as background music for your video, please check under which CC license the artist publishes his works. Not respecting one of the licensing conditions makes your video infringing, which can lead to its removal and legal actions be taken against you. Recently I've witnessed how a quite popular video with millions of views was taken down due to not complying with one of the requirements. The views were lost and the owner got a copyright strike which limits various benefits offered by YouTube. Three copyright strikes lead to termination of YouTube account, so please, take it seriously.

    What can you do if you want to use music for your video but can't comply with certain requirement of the license?

    You've got two options:

    1. Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder. So, you can contact the artist and try convincing him to waive the problematic clause for you.

    2. You can purchase a Royalty Free license at Jamendo Licensing. Royalty Free means that after purchasing a license you don't have to worry about paying additional fees or royalties claimed on account of intellectual property rights. This is the best way because it supports both the artist and Jamendo.


  • Very nice.
  • Indeed, super nice.

    This document will be very useful, thanks a lot Serge.
  • Well done, sir! If this doesn't answer that old question, then someone take their computer away! They've no business even attempting to work with one!
  • Yeah,thats what i mean. We have to know all rules that Jamendo has. Indeed!
  • Once more. I apologize for making such mistakes. In my heart i respect artists rights and i dont want to face the trouble in copyrights. I try to learn what is correct and ask a permission from the artist. Im really sorry.Hopefully some of you forgives me and in future i try to avoid from these problems. Thanks for teaching and letting us know what we needed. Sometimes people need such things to know what is proper or what is not. Thank you SaReGaMa.
  • nice icons for instruction !!!
  • ND image - (No Derivatives) Don't alter, transform or build upon the music.
    One thing should be noted, music fans love their artist, and love to create videos for them, not out copyright infringements, but out of respect and for them. Creative Commons if for people with creative minds, that not only see the Music Artist, they feel their world with their hearts, with this"ND image - (No Derivatives) Don't alter, transform or build upon the music." This Takes away from the possibilities, for them also to be seen as a creator within videos= A "Creative Commons 2.0 Cinema Presentation", timing it to the music as well as the video slide show or movie.
    I have personally formatted many videos for the Jamendo Music Artist, timing it to the slideshows or Movie, in a on going goal for their music to be used by TV or in Motion Pictures.
    We do this for free, at cost to us, why, because we care, and soon hope-fully some day we will be seen and remembered for doing something honest for another and not asking nothing in return. We will build videos for anyone for free,just ask....
    sin.,
    Henry Massingale