6 Surprisingly Famous Royalty-Free Songs

All content creators understand the power a soundtrack can add to their production. The right background music can inspire and help your video stand out from the crowd. Sadly, most popular songs are protected by copyright. So, if you try to add a copyrighted song to your video, platforms like YouTube are quick to remove them for copyright infringement. It can be challenging finding royalty-free songs that are popular and recognizable. Keep reading for the top six surprisingly famous royalty-free songs.

How Do Royalty-Free Songs Happen?

Copyright is a confusing topic, made more complicated by the fact that every country has its own definitions. So, while a song may be royalty-free in one country, it might not be in another. Exactly how do royalty-free songs happen?

In the United States, copyrights can have different lengths depending on when the song was published and by whom.

  • Works published before January 1, 1978, get 95 years
  • Works published after January 1, 1978, get 70 years after the death of the author
  • Corporate and anonymous works after January 1, 1978, last for 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter

When this time passes, the song is no longer protected by copyright and is officially in the public domain.

Once a song is in the public domain, users can alter, modify and use the song as they see fit. However, the person who adapted the song will usually claim a copyright for their interpretation. For that reason, you can only use the original song under the public domain. To use the modified version you must receive permission.

Top Six Most Popular Royalty-Free Songs

1. Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Singers Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer recorded the original version of Take Me Out to the Ball Game in 1908. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was written by of New York City music publishers and songwriters known as Tin Pan Alley. As more than 95 years have passed, the original song is now in the public domain in the United States. This song is a cult classic, often thought to be the unofficial song of American baseball. It’s a favorite in videos discussing baseball or sports in general.

Video producers should be careful to stick to the original song. Many famous artists, such as Frank Sinatra, have produced versions of the song since its original production. And, the majority of these newer adaptations are not yet public domain.

2. Happy Birthday

Up until 2016, music publishing company Warner/Chappell Music had claimed copyright on the “Happy Birthday” song and been collecting fees for its use. The company claims to have purchased the copyright for the song in 1988 for $25 million. Warner/Chappell went to court over their rights to the song, as they believed the copyright wouldn’t end until 2030.

U.S. District Judge George King determined that Warner/Chappell did not own the famous song in June 2016. He also noted that Kentucky schoolteacher Patty Smith Hill and her older sister Mildred may not have even written the lyrics.

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A picture of a birthday cake with candles on the top

A picture of a birthday cake with candles on the top

3. House of the Rising Sun

Popular English rock band The Animals produced what is likely the most well-known version of this song in 1964. And, the version produced by The Animals is still under copyright law. However, The Animals were not the ones to write this song. The House of the Rising Sun is a traditional folk song (sometimes called Rising Sun Blues). Like many folk songs, it’s unclear who the original author is, making the original song and lyrics not subject to copyright laws.

The oldest known recording of the song Is under the title Rising Sun Blues and was recorded in 1933. It was recorded by two Appalachian artists named Gwin Foster and Clarence “Tom” Ashley.

4. Rockin’ Robin

Rockin’ Robin was written by Leon Rene aka “Jimmie Thomas” and was recorded by the American singer Bobby Day in 1958. “Rockin’ Robin” ended up being the most popular song of his career.

The copyright on Bobby Day’s version of Rockin’ Robin was never renewed, making it a popular choice among royalty-free songs. However, before you use the song, make sure you have the right version. Michael Jackson went on to cover it in 1972, and his version became more popular than Bobby’s.

5. Everybody Loves My Baby

Everybody Loves My Baby is a well-known jazz song written by Jack Palmer and composed by Spencer Williams in 1924. This jazz hit is still popular to this day for its fantastic, uplifting beat. The song only became public domain in 2019, making it a recent addition to this list.

6. That’s All Right

When we mention the song That’s All Right, the version that likely comes to your mind is Elvis Presley’s adaptation. But, blues singer Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup wrote and recorded the original version of this song. Elvis went on to produce and release a version of the song in which became much more well-known.

You can find a complete list of public domain songs here.

By using songs in the public domain, video producers can still have entertaining content that won’t cost them additional fees to publish. As well, content creators can use services such as Audiosocket to gain access to high quality, affordable songs for their videos.

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