Difference Between Copyright Free and Royalty Free – An Overview

Copyright Free and Royalty Free
Karan Singh
| Updated: Jan 14, 2022 | Category: Copyright

Copyright Free and Royalty Free are used with great confusion online and it gets even more confusing with offers of Free to Use or No Copyright Music content. Some people often use the terms Copyright Free and Royalty Free interchangeably. But, the terms don’t have similar terms because they cover two different concepts. A normal person won’t ever experience the difference between Copyright Free and Royalty Free. Those who utilise their works or music or art for their projects can run into these two terms. Either way, a person should know the differences between them to safeguard themselves from the outcomes associated with the Copyright and Royalty Free. Scroll down to check more information regarding the difference between Copyright Free and Royalty Free.

What is the Meaning of Copyright and Royalty?

Before we discuss the differences between Copyright Free and Royalty Free, let’s first understand the meaning of Copyright and Royalty.

  • Copyright: First and most important thing is that a person needs to understand the meaning of Copyright. Each country handles Copyrights differently, but a general definition of Copyright does cover most laws. Copyrights provide individuals with IPR or Intellectual Property Rights over the things they have created. Generally, this applies to products, artistic works, musical works, etc. Such Intellectual Property Rights give an individual or a person an exclusive time frame to utilise their creation for financial gain. Nobody can copy their exact work of art or product without facing legal outcomes.
  • Royalty: It is a payment made to the Copyright owner every time a copyrighted material is used. The Copyright owner can license its products or works to another entity; however, an agreement does not give the secondary user rights to the Copyright itself. Under most agreements, people or individuals may use the things that they have paid a royalty for without making any changes or claiming ownership over the product or item in question.

What are the Differences Between Copyright Free and Royalty Free?

Following are the differences between Copyright Free and Royalty Free:

  1. Copyright Free: It refers to a work where the creator or author of the work has waived their Copyright rights. This means that they still own the actual work, but they are not interested in collecting royalties, getting credit for that work, or otherwise being identified for the creation or ownership of that work. Work that is truly Copyright Free is tremendously rare and may be suspect. Content may be considered Copyright Free if it has entered the public domain or of the rights, holder is offering it for free, generally as a form of promotion. If you are using a piece of Copyright Free material, proceed with caution. Ensure you do extra research to be absolutely certain that you are not violating someone’s Copyright.
  2. Royalty-Free: Royalty-Free is used to explain creative materials that don’t require extra payments to the actual creator or author for use. Simply it means that a piece of content is free from royalties, meaning that it is free from in progress payments. For example, when a song is used in a movie or an artwork piece is featured in a video, the creator will negotiate or bargain some form of ongoing payment for the use of that content; such payment is called a Royalty.

Royalty Free means that no such ongoing payments are vital. It doesn’t mean that the work is free or that aren’t limitations on its use. For instance, a Royalty Free stock photography might cost hundreds of dollars to license but will need no extra royalties down the line. After such payment, the image is free to use for a as long as the license permits and in the ways it allows. Royalty-free works can indeed or actually be free. There are various free stock photography websites that permit you to download and use images that you will never have to pay a license fee or a Royalty fee for. These are not public domain or Copyright Free images, and they have limitations on their license.

The vital thing to remember with Royalty Free work is that it refers to the lack of ongoing payments, not the lack of a primary payment and not the lack of limitations on the use of the work. With Royalty Free work, always take the time to read the license and follow it carefully.

Why Copyright Free and Royalty Free are Important?

The confusion to understanding both terms are understandable. Both the Copyright Free and Royalty Free are terms that have an official meaning but have been changed through casual use. But, this confusion is also potentially unsafe.

For instance, many YouTubers have had their channels threatened over the use of stock images or music that they thought they had consent to use but didn’t. Right Shareholders are becoming increasingly destructive and with the rise of bots to find matching consent, even unclear infringements are being detected easily.

Generally, the best part is that you can do is not seek out Copyright Free and Royalty Free content and instead, looking for content licensed for whatever you want to do with it. If you require content that you can use without worrying of Copyright at all, don’t seek out Copyright Free content and in its place, seek out Public Domain content. While you still be careful and make sure that the content is actually Public Domain, especially if you don’t live in the USA (United States of America), you are much more likely to get actual or original Copyright Free content that way.

So always be careful regarding where you get your content from & always read the licenses carefully or thoroughly. A few minutes of time while searching can serve you limitless headaches down the road.


In the end, Royalty Free[1] means a Licensee can use a work without owing the Copyright or paying Royalties on a per-use basis. Copyright Free and Royalty Free are used interchangeably, but the fact of the matter is that they could not be any more different. Royalties and Copyrights cover two different thoughts. A Copyright safeguards a Licensor that charges a Royalty to use IP. Then again, Copyright Free and Royalty Free have nothing to do with each other.

Read our Article:Everything You Need to Know About Copyright Licensing Agreement

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Karan Singh

A legal writing enthusiast, a wanderer, and a zealous reader. After gaining a lot of knowledge about the diverse legal topics and developing research skills, Karan joined the league of legal content writers to deliver quality-rich blogs.


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