Using Music + Video in Your Video
Math Video Challenge teams can add music, videos, sound effects, images and any other audiovisual materials to their video, but that content must:
- be entirely original, created and performed by the members of the team, or
- be an original performance of works that are in the public domain, or
- allow royalty-free use of the material with no restrictions.
You’ll notice things get a little tricky when using material that wasn’t made originally by your team. We’ve provided the resources below to help you figure out what kinds of audiovisual content you are allowed to include in your video.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I USE CONTENT THAT IS NOT ALLOWED IN THE CONTEST? If you use any audiovisual content that does not follow the contest rules stated above, then your team will be disqualified, meaning you cannot advance or win any prizes in the contest. However, your video will still appear on the website and in the video archive as a learning tool for students and teachers.
WHEN IN DOUBT, ASK! If you’re unsure about the rules of the contest or just want to know if you can use a specific song or video clip, you always can ask the MATHCOUNTS national office for help. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (703) 299-9006.
Download the Music Guide Flow Chart
This flow chart will make it easy for you to figure out whether you can use a song and will help you identify any specific questions you have. Download the Music Guide Flow Chart here, then refer to the information below for more details.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? All original music and videos are protected by copyright for the creator as soon as that music or video is recorded. However, copyright protection doesn’t last forever. Often a copyright lasts until 70 years after the original creator’s death. Public domain includes works that are old enough that the copyright of the original artist has expired.
Some examples of songs in the public domain are “Jingle Bells,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Little Boy Blue.” Many classical songs are also in the public domain. You can learn more about public domain here.
HOW DO I KNOW IF A SONG IS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN? Every song published in 1922 or earlier is now in the public domain. For songs published in 1923 or later, you’ll have to do a bit of research. One place you can look is the Public Catalog of the U.S. Copyright Office; if a song (or a particular artist’s version of a song) is listed there, then it still has a valid copyright and therefore cannot be in the public domain.
Some organizations maintain databases of songs that are in the public domain. Below is one that we have found. Please note, however, that MATHCOUNTS does not maintain this database and therefore cannot attest that every song on this site is in the public domain. No matter where you find a particular song, you should double check to make sure it is in the public domain before performing or featuring it in your video.
DOES IT MATTER WHAT VERSION OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN SONG I USE? Yes, this matters a lot! Just because a song is in the public domain does not mean that every performance of that song is. For example, you and your teammates are allowed to perform “Jingle Bells” yourselves and include that recording in your video. But you cannot play a version of “Jingle Bells” by Frank Sinatra or the cast of Glee because both of those versions have their own copyright protections. If you want to use a song in the public domain, but not perform it yourselves, you’ll need to find a version that is either royalty-free or released under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Sometimes an original author will decide not to copyright his/her work or will allow other people to use it on a “royalty-free” basis. In these cases, anyone can use their content without any restrictions. An example of royalty-free music would be some of the content included in iMovie software.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY SONG IS ROYALTY-FREE? In most cases, if you are on a site that offers royalty-free music, the site should indicate whether a particular song is royalty-free. A song that someone you know writes specifically for your video also could be considered royalty-free, but you will want to check with the author to make sure and to ask if/how to credit him/her.
Please note, however, that just because a song is royalty-free in some cases does not mean it can be used in your video. For example, some sites will offer music that is “royalty-free for educational use”; this type of music cannot be used in the Math Video Challenge because student participants can win prizes with monetary value. Only music that is completely royalty-free with no restrictions, or music that is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license is allowed in the Math Video Challenge.
IS FAIR USE THE SAME AS ROYALTY-FREE? No. The Fair Use Copyright Doctrine allows people legally to use copyrighted material without getting permission from the person who owns the copyright. Fair use is often cited to allow material to be used for educational purposes. The rules of the Math Video Challenge do not allow participants to use content under fair use.
Creative Commons Attribution Licenses
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Creative Commons licenses were created as a way to allow original authors of content to keep their copyright but still share their work with other people in some ways. The Creative Commons Attribution license allows you to use a particular work as long as you credit the original author. You can use these types of songs in your video, but you must credit the original author correctly (the site where you got your music should indicate what to write for the credit). You can learn more about these licenses here.
HOW DO I KNOW IF A SONG IS RELEASED UNDER A CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION LICENSE? In most cases, if you are on a site that offers Creative Commons music, the site should indicate whether a particular song is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
Please note, there are different kinds of Creative Commons licenses, but only content released under a Creative Commons Attribution license is allowed in the Math Video Challenge. Do not use any content released under a Creative Commons license if it includes any of the following restrictions:
Below are a few websites we have found that contain audio content released under the Creative Commons Attribution license. However, please note that MATHCOUNTS does not maintain these sites and therefore cannot attest that all songs on these sites are released under the Creative Commons Attribution license. You should review the specific license associated with a particular song before using it in your video.
CAN I USE ANY SONG (COPYRIGHTED OR NOT) AS LONG AS I CITE THE SOURCE? No. Only some songs are released under the Creative Commons Attribution license. Crediting the original author is not enough for many songs. For example, no matter how you credit her, you are not allowed to use “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift in your Math Video Challenge video because that song is not released under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
Why Can’t I Use This Song?
I BOUGHT THIS SONG LEGALLY (ON ITUNES, AMAZON, ETC.)! WHY CAN’T I USE IT? Buying a song legally does not mean you own the song or its copyright. When you purchase a song, essentially you’re buying the license to listen to that song at any time. Even though you are allowed to listen to a song that you’ve purchased as often as you want, you cannot use it in your video.
I PLAN TO SAY WHO WROTE THIS SONG DURING MY VIDEO! WHY CAN’T I USE IT? Unless the song you are planning to use is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license, simply crediting the original author is not enough. Stick to music that is completely royalty-free or music that is released under the Creative Commons Attribution license with no other restrictions.
THE MATH VIDEO CHALLENGE IS AN EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM! WHY CAN’T I USE THIS SONG THAT IS ROYALTY-FREE FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES? Even though the Math Video Challenge is an educational program, the videos created are not solely for educational purposes because participants can win prizes (gift cards, scholarships, etc.) that have monetary value.
ALTHOUGH THE VERSION I CHOSE WAS PERFORMED BY SOMEONE ELSE, THE SONG ITSELF IS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN! WHY CAN’T I USE IT? Even though a song is in the public domain, a particular performance of that song can still have its own copyright. So it would be fine if you and your team members wanted to perform a song in the public domain yourselves, but if you want to use someone else’s recording of that public domain song, then that version must follow the same contest rules for audiovisual content just like any other song.
I SAW ANOTHER TEAM’S VIDEO ON THE MATH VIDEO CHALLENGE ARCHIVE THAT USES A COPYRIGHTED SONG. WHY CAN’T I USE A COPYRIGHTED SONG, TOO? A video can be included in the video archive even if the team that created it was disqualified. Given the number of videos submitted to the Math Video Challenge each year, MATHCOUNTS cannot review every video before it is submitted. This is one of the reasons each team must have an adult Team Advisor who reviews the video before it is posted. Breaking the contest rules will result in disqualification, meaning your team cannot advance or win any prizes.