Hi everyone, I've seen other posts on sound library usage, but my question is more geared towards freelancers.

If you're working as a freelance sound designer and get hired by a production company on contract to work on a project for their client, are you legally allowed to use the royalty free sound libraries that you've purchased yourself to work on the project even if it's for a third party?

Would the production company need to purchase the library since they are the ones being credited on the project and not you?

Any insight into this would be appreciated.



  • great question! definitely a gray area that leaves me stumped. Nov 23, 2012 at 17:43
  • Thanks everyone for your help and providing some insight into this! Dec 4, 2012 at 16:27

4 Answers 4


This is an interesting and evolving area, but in my experience the verdict usually fall towards the freelancer having legal right to use their own sound effects library as a work-for-hire.

As a freelancer, if you purchase the royalty-free right to a sound effects library and are hired by a company that does not have their own library, you can use your own as long as they are used in synch.

Some companies do provide their own library and some companies like to purchase either the sounds or library you used on their project just to be 100% clear/for good housekeeping.

An easier way to understand all of this is to liken it to a painter (sound designer) and the patron (client). A painter may bring his own paint to paint the patron's portrait. Sometimes that is enough, sometimes the patron supplies or purchases more paint (wider variety, higher quality, etc) for the painter, in addition to commissioning the painting.

All in all, to support the sound effects industry, it is nice This is what Sound One did - they supplied a massive library (200k+ sounds)that could only be used on Sound One projects. Unfortunately, Sound One has shut down temporarily and now there are a ton of freelancers here in NYC looking for work.These freelancers are not allowed to use Sound One's library in their own projects and projects for other clients.

I am the Library & Licensing Specialist at Pro Sound Effects, so I handle licensing issues of all sorts on behalf of our catalogs (Blastwave FX, BBC, Foundation, etc). I hope this helped and happy to try to answer any other questions related to sound effects licensing.


This is a common occurrence - I don't know the exact stats but many sound editors, & sound designers are freelance and accordingly spend the majority of their time working in the scenario you describe.

If you check the license agreement for each sound library company you can verify the rights and use that is allowed, certainly for HISSandaROAR it is very clear you are entitled to do this. http://hissandaroar.com/eula

Some free sound websites have agreements that you have to be aware of on a case by case basis eg freesound contain samples some of which are public domain & some of which are not allowed for commercial use...



Well, from my point of view... it depends.

The biggest factor is where the final product will be exhibited and how tightly the client (or the client's client, ie the network/film studio) likes to cover their ass. I've had clients ask me to provide a list of the sources of all the sfx I used (which I may or may not be able to provide). Other clients don't give a hoot. So it's best to ask your client prior to working with them.

Most independent sfx libraries allow you to use their sfx in any way you see fit. See BOOM's terms of use:

Can I use your sounds in a production that's going to be broadcast. Do I have to pay for additional licenses?

The licence is for commercial and non-commercial use in music, sound-effect, audio/video post-production, performance, broadcast or similar finished content-creation and production use. It allows you to combine the CONTENT you've purchased for commercial recordings without paying any additional license fees or providing source attribution to BOOM Library


Hi Anne-Marie,

The above gents have covered this pretty nicely but I thought I'd add something that has come up for me a few times: ProTools design sessions.

I've been asked to supply ProTools sessions so the company can recreate/modify sounds if they need to. Except for my own sounds, this steps beyond purchased SFX EULAs. I've made a point to make sure folks understand this when discussing contract details. If this is overwhelmingly important to them, we discuss the purchases they would be required to make, in order to legitimize the process.


  • I'd recommend printing comp'd 'stems' of the layers and provide those instead of raw edits. That way there's no EULA issues, and also it prevents individuals with potentially unsavory motives from stealing the source elements or knowing what you chose to use, and it keeps everything cleaner. But it still gives them discrete, pre-constructed elements to allow them flexibility for modification. Often we comp down FX edits in film and TV work, not so often due to the EULA/secrecy type reasons but because the added benefit is it makes everything easier and neater for the mixer to work with. Dec 3, 2012 at 19:14
  • By secrecy I mean the healthy level of trade secrecy (as we are creative/IP professionals). I gather we all have at least a small handful of custom 'secret sauce' elements in our own libraries which I'm sure we all like to guard closely ;) Dec 3, 2012 at 19:17
  • i agree with @stavrosound - stems is also a far better format for archival purposes too, who knows if the protools format will exists in 20 years, but importing a stem with a head and tail pop will always work
    – user49
    Dec 4, 2012 at 1:27

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