Free music

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Free music or open music is a synonym for music that is produced according to the philosophies of free software and open source . Music that partially realizes the required freedoms, but z. B. may not be changed or not changed commercially, is called, by analogy with semi-free software, semi-free music . Some music services such as jamendo , deviating from this definition, equate the term free music with GEMA-free music . The songs available there can only be used privately, but not commercially, and are therefore only semi-free.


Similar to software, there are different licenses for music (or artistic works in general) with which the authors “release” their works for different purposes. These allow the music to be freely copied and distributed and parts of a title to be used for your own - again free - works.

The crossed out copyright symbol with a note

One of the oldest licenses used for free music and art that is UVM license for free content . In connection with free music, however, this is mainly used in the interpretation of Neppstar, whereby it corresponds most closely to the GNU General Public License . Both Richard Stallman's 4 freedoms and the copyleft effect are taken into account.

In addition, this includes the licenses of the Open Music project, which can be seen as a preliminary stage of the Creative Commons that is most commonly used today . The latter represent, so to speak, a modular system that enables grading of what is permitted. For example, the change or further development of music can be prohibited, which then no longer corresponds to the term “free” in the sense of free software . A common restriction is the commercial use of the otherwise released works. In this way, however, further processing or public performance may also be restricted. This type of license can best be compared to the term freeware in the software industry.

Music that is released under a free license such as Neppstar's Free Content License or certain Creative Commons licenses (CC by-sa, CC by, or CC zero) can be referred to as free music in the broadest sense. It may be freely copied, passed on, included in databases and offered, but also passed on in other forms. However, it is also permitted to sell them after they have been received, for example in the form of audio carriers or as a download in databases. In doing so, however, the license provisions must be observed, which may require that the user refer to the free license and pass it on. In addition, for free music that comes under the license for free content (in the sense of Neppstar) , the source code must also be supplied when it is distributed, which makes it very similar to the GPL.

Free music can also be broadcast freely on radio and television and - for example at concerts - replayed without license fees being incurred. The composers make their works available to the general public without demanding any financial or material compensation.

For self-protection (so that free music is not lost), there are often three conditions, similar to the GNU General Public License , to which the licensees must undertake:

  1. Name of the author or licensor and reference to the free license (this applies to commercial use and any distribution of the free works)
  2. Backflow to the free pool, d. H. if the works are changed, they must also be placed under the free license ( copyleft ).
  3. Distribution of the source code

For musicians and composers it may be interesting that remixes and mashups can be created from free pieces , and new music can be formed from the free material. Whereby the ancillary copyrights of any musicians involved must be observed if a remix or mashup is to be created from the sound material of a free work. The remix or the mashup usually has to be made available to the general public again. For filmmakers who want to use the offer of free music, the rule is that they then also have to approve their film. Under certain circumstances it may be advantageous to public domain (public domain) Music (z. B. Free Sheet Music ) to use that enforces no reflux in the free pool.


OpenMusic is also an initiative launched by LinuxTag in 2001 . A CD with Open Music was released at LinuxTag 2001 . For this purpose, two OpenMusic licenses were created. A LinuxTag Green OpenMusic License and a LinuxTag Yellow OpenMusic License . The two licenses differ in terms of allowing the music to be used commercially . With the green license, the music can be used as desired, including commercially. The yellow license requires the author's permission for any commercial use.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. "What is free music?"
  2. "Can I also use the music on Jamendo for commercial purposes?"
  3. ^ License for free content at Neppstar