What Does Copyright Mean? Definition & Overview

Copyright is a term that refers to the legal rights of authors, artists, and musicians given in most countries through international copyright laws. Copyrighted work, whether it is music from a musician or other audio recordings, can be used if it is licensed. It also allows them to receive compensation for it being used by someone else, even if they do not hold copyright on the material directly.

Licensing is when the owner of a copyrighted work gives permission for someone to use their work. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of copyrighting and, what the public domain is, and how it all works.

What are the Different Types of Copyright?

Copyright is a type of intellectual property law that protects original works from being used by others without permission.

Depending on the sort of work you want to register, there are five distinct application forms at the US Copyright Office: literary, visual, single series, performing arts, and sound recording.

Under these different types of copyright, you can’t protect work such as:

  • Audio Files
  • Recorded music or written music
  • Dramatic/theater work, such as plays and screenplays
  • Artistic & graphic design copyright or fine art (paintings, drawings, photographs), industrial design (furniture), fashion design (clothes), multimedia (website designs)
  • Film copyright or motion picture film, also known as movies
  • Literary copyright or written literary works (novels, short stories)
  • Broadcast right / electronic media right / TV programming
The terms “copyright” and “rights” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. A copyright is a form of protection that gives the owner of an original work exclusive rights over it for a limited amount of time. It does not, however, prevent you from utilizing audio in your work. It merely implies that someone else owns the copyright to the music, but by submitting it to a sound collection, they have given others permission to use it under a license.

How Do Licenses Work?

Licenses are a contract between a creator of original work and someone who wants to use it. They outline specific terms of usage, such as how long you have permission to use the content and what your permitted uses are.

Licenses are used to distribute content in a standardized way, and it is the responsibility of the licensee to adhere to its terms. Licenses can vary depending on who creates them and who they are meant for.
If someone licenses their work under the public domain, anyone can use that work however they see fit, without paying or asking permission. If they license something commercially, then there will be extra conditions attached to the contract.
Commercial libraries can be expensive, but there are also many free sources of royalty-free sound out there as well. Most licenses for audio files will state how the file can and cannot be used, so always read the license carefully before use.

Some of the vocabularies you may find in these licenses include:

  • Attribution – by using the audio, you agree to apply a notice in the work the audio is used in states where it was obtained from.
  • Derivatives – allowing the audio to be edited and changed
  • Non Commercial – prohibiting any publication of their work for commercial purposes
  • Commercial use – The right to adapt copyrighted material or artwork for commercial, advertising, promotional, or retail purposes.
  • Indemnification – The right to require the copyright holder to assume responsibility for any claims of infringement or misappropriation made against you, which may include attorney’s fees.
  • Replication – The rights related to duplication or replication in bulk quantities.
  • Redistribute – The rights to reproduce and sell copies of another’s work.

Gfx Sounds is the Leading Sound Library for Professional and Free Sound Effects Downloads. We use a Standard License for all recorded audio files.

What is Public Domain?

The Public Domain is a section of copyright law that allows for content to be used without the need for permission from the creator. When a work enters the public domain, it becomes free to use and can be taken by anyone. Public domain refers to material that is not restricted by copyright laws.
Works are not required to enter the public domain. It is possible for works to stay under copyright until they eventually meet requirements for expiration or if their copyright term gets extended by other factors (such as country-specific laws). This means that an original author may hold onto their work indefinitely unless they release it into the public domain beforehand.

Licenses for audio files will often explicitly state whether a file is public domain or not. There are certain types of licenses that can be used to donate content into the public domain, such as Creative Commons Zero (CC0).

Copyright terms vary significantly around the world. In some countries, copyrights expire 50 years after an author dies, while others have a copyright term extending hundreds of years later. Copyright terms depend on multiple factors, so it’s essential to look at specific laws associated with a particular country when determining if a work is in the public domain.


Copyright is a legal concept that protects creative works from unlawful use by others. The duration of copyright depends upon the country and work in question, as well as other factors. If a work is in the public domain, it can be used by anyone to create derivative works without permission as long as they follow guidelines for proper credit where due.
When using licensed audio, be sure to check if it is copyrighted and what rules apply to the use of the material. Licenses are full of verbiage, but not all of it is easy to understand. Be sure to read carefully and seek clarification if you are not sure of anything. If you need more information about copyright, you can contact us at [email protected]