Difference Between Royalty Free VS Copyright Free Music

Royalty Free vs Copyright Free

Difference Between Royalty Free VS Copyright Free Music

Royalty free music means you don’t have to pay each time the music is used. It may have an initial cost or could be free which usually doesn’t include a commercial license. Copyright free music refers to music that is in the public domain (usually older music) or music that artists have chosen to have a free license with attribution.

The terms “Royalty Free” and “Copyright Free” are often misused. What does it mean to be royalty free music? To the average person, this term probably doesn’t even make sense.

But to artists involved in music, it is a very important distinction that can save them money. This blog post will explore these two terms and their differences so you can understand the difference between royalty free music and copyright free music for your own use or business needs.

Copyright Free and Royalty Free

To anyone new to music licenses these terms can get confusing fast. They literally have the word free and most people will assume that means they can use it anywhere like background music for one of their videos for example but this is incorrect.

Music licensing can get very in-depth but we are going to keep this simple and give you want you to need to know without making your brain hurt. These are also just guidelines to follow, I am not a lawyer and this information can be different depending on which country you live in but it will be a great reference to start.

Copyright Free

Copyright free music can be free to use depending on where it falls. The two ways are if the music is in the public domain or it is listed as a free to use license by the artist and company.

Let’s talk more about these two in detail:

Public Domain

Public domain music is just that, it can be used by anyone in the public and is 100% legal to use without permission. This happens a long time after the artist passes away, up to 70 years depending on where you live.

If you are using work that is from this time you will have no issues, but keep in mind a lot of companies will reuse these works and claim it as their own, and then it may be copyrighted by them. Make sure to use the original masters and you won’t have any restrictions when using them from the public domain.

Free License

A free license is just that, the artist creates the song and allows everyone to have a free license. If you wanted to use the song in a video on YouTube for example you could.

There are however creative commons that request attribution on who the work was created from in the video description. Most of the time they have this information listed in the description of the song from the creator.

Basically, you would just copy and paste that and put it in your description. It will say something like:

Song: xx made by: xx available at ??.com and then may have some license info after it.

This website Stream Lofi is a free license that you can use for everything even commercially which is very rare. We do not require you to credit us but you can if you would like.

Click the platform you would like to listen to Stream Lofi music on the above menu and find anything you need for free.

TIP: If you want to check if something is copyrighted you can always upload the song to YouTube and just leave the video as unlisted. YouTube will scan the whole video for any property that is marked as copyrighted. This process usually only takes a few minutes after the upload is complete but YouTube recommends waiting 2 hours to be sure.


A royalty is when you have to pay each time a song is used which is often referred to as a “Protected Rights” license, which is the opposite of royalty free.

One use of a protected rights licensed song would be one video. For example, if I was in a Superbowl commercial (I can dream) and had to pay for the song to be used each time then I just have to pay for a one-time use even though the commercial may air multiple times.

Now if I am in a second commercial winning a gold medal then the copyright law would mean I have to pay a royalty to the creator.

Protected Rights are the opposite of royalty free.

Royalty Free

Royalty free means there are no royalties ongoing. With royalty free music there is no ongoing payment needed. This does not mean it is free as there can be a one-time fee depending on the contracts, agreements, and licenses you have set up with the artist and company.

Don’t get me wrong royalty free music can be free but there are usually restrictions on it and most of the time it can’t be used commercially.

Fair Use

Fair use is content you can have the right to use but it’s usually in the forms of a creator reviewing or doing news with. When uploading a video on YouTube for example people can select if they want to allow a fair use license.

Now fair use with music is much different, you can’t even use 10 seconds of a song for fair use as most people think.

Easily put this is a very tricky category especially when it comes to music as there is nothing set in stone for this category. You may want to just find the songs you need and pay the fee.

Once paid you will have the peace of mind knowing you can’t have legal actions taken against you.


Not that you are aware of how royalty free music works and what licenses there are you will be able to make better decisions on videos and projects that you create. It’s crazy nowadays that sound can be so confusing.

There are many royalty free music services that have a subscription model so you just pay for that month and can use all of their libraries from any creators on their platform. The internet makes this easy but there are still fees that need to be paid.

If you are looking for copyright free music for YouTube or whatever your project is feel free to use Stream Lofi! We allow all our music content to be used as a free license and no creative commons need to be attributed.

Simply find the song you want to use and use it. Feel free to check out our full library of content on Spotify so you can find what songs will work well for you, again no permission is needed from us and we are the intellectual owner of all these songs you can even download them.

Keep in mind this is not legal advice if you have any questions you should reach out to an attorney of law. I am simply a YouTuber of over 5 years and have been through this process many times.

There may be some affiliate links in this article and if you make a purchase I may receive a small kickback from it. Thank you.