6 Creative Commons Licenses you must know before you buy or sell music online

Creative Commons Licenses

If you are somebody who had something to do with buying music online, you must know that the industry works on the various types of licenses called as (CC) Creative Commons Licenses. When an artist creates a composition, he’s supposed to license it. Now, the type of license governs what anybody in the world can do with that piece of music.

There are several free music download apps and websites are available for free music downloads. You should have a thorough knowledge of Creative Commons Licenses before you work with any music.


Some licenses will allow you to freely do anything with the previous work – improvise, change, add, sell commercially, etc. While some will only allow you to listen to the piece of work, legally.

The whole Licensing is taken care by creativecommons.org which a portal primarily made for this. You should check out the complete FAQ at the site. It’s a must if you are buying or selling anything online that requires licenses!

Let’s see some of the standard licenses you find on the websites such as the legal and public domain archives – Internet Archive and Free Music Archive.


Before understanding the various types of licenses, you must know some terminologies:

  • CC – You will find CC written on all the licenses; it’s just a tag of Creative Commons License
  • BY – This means Crediting the work to the owner BY providing ‘Attribution.’
  • NC – It stands for ‘Non-commercial’, and it means no other person can earn money by selling the work of the artist, except the owner/artist himself
  • ND – This means ‘No Derivatives’ – No musician/artist is allowed to change/improvise the original composition or the artwork
  • SA – ‘ShareAlike’ means any artist building or improvising on the work of another artist must have the same license as the artist initially had


Now, with the above terminologies known, it is easier to understand the different types of licenses. As each term is important to understand the freedom you have to recreate, remix, display, improvise on an artist’s work.

If you’re a YouTuber, Blogger, Graphic Designer, Painter, or into any other creative job that requires you to use licenses, below are some common licenses you must be familiar with:

·      CC – Attribution | CC-BY

This license is the most lenient of them all. In fact, it is the only license that YouTube complies with!


Wherever you find a license looking like the picture above, you should know that it’s a “CC-BY” license.

With this, licensees can remix, create derivative works, copy or display, and even use for commercial purposes, only if they credit the artist/licensor.

·      CC – Attribution – ShareAlike | CC-BY-SA

With this license, the licensor allows any licensee to perform any of the work as in “CC-BY” license. Provided that the licensee creates derivative works under an identical license or ‘ShareAlike’.


You can remix, create mash-ups, improvise, tweak, or use for commercial purposes. Even Wikipedia follows this license.

·      CC – Attribution – Non-Commercial | CC-BY-NC

Under this license, any user can perform derivate works, remix, improvise, as long as the licensee doesn’t use it commercially.


Of course, there’s no restriction on the type of license you can have after you do some derivative work, but you will anyway not be able to sell it commercially.

·      CC – Attribution – No Derivatives | CC-BY-ND

With this license, any artist/licensor can make sure not to have the work of art be changed or tweaked in any manner.


Any licensee is only allowed to use or distribute the work without making any changes to the original composition. However, licensees are allowed to use it for both commercial or non-commercial purposes provided they give the credits or attribution to the owner.

·      CC – Attribution – Non-commercial – ShareAlike | CC-BY-NC-SA

Under this license, any person can perform/build upon the works of artists/licensor by giving them attribution, but only for non-commercial purposes.


However, they will have to create a license for their improvised compositions under the identical terms.

·      CC – Attribution – Non-Commercial – No Derivatives | CC-BY-NC-ND

This license gives the least amount of freedom. Under this, a user can neither create any derivative works nor use the song/picture/music for any commercial purposes.


Therefore, works licensed under this can only be used for personal purposes such as listening to the song by any music composer.

Over to you

Knowing how each license works is a must if you are someone who either creates or buys music, photos, etc.

I have seen many people getting into copyright issues while using photos, songs, mash-ups, remixes, or any other content.

How can you avoid getting into any trouble? It’s simple, use or create as much of your personal work as you can. If you can’t, make sure to credit the author/composer/painter/designer whose work you use for your purpose, be it commercial or non-commercial.


Especially when you’re looking for songs or background music, make sure to get your content from any of the credible and legal websites. Some of our suggested websites being Jamendo, PureVolume, NoiseTrade, SoundClick, CCTrax, BeSonic, etc.

Two critical licenses to make a note of are CC-BY and CC-BY-NC-ND as the former can let you do anything you want with the content, while the latter provides you with all the restrictions possible.

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Rohan believes in learning from other’s mistakes and his own. He is a curious person and is always all ears to good stories and ideas. He is passionate about reading, exploring new places, people, food. He likes to write about education, books and life hacks.