Hi all, I'm fairly new to sound design so at the moment I'm looking to supplement my own recordings with various sample libaries. I've had a look at the ones from Rabbit Ears, The Recordist, et al and all include something like the following stipulation in the license:

"You are NOT permitted to: Make copies of any of the unsynchronized recordings contained within our royalty free products, except as may be designated to a single stand alone workstation for the sole purpose of specific audio and / or visual synchronization at your own facility."

Now I'm working on a videogame which I was hoping to include some library sounds on, and this seems to be problematic given that the end user has to receive copies of the individual samples as the mix and synchronization are done at runtime.

If anyone could clear up whether using them in this way for games would be acceptable or not it'd be very much appreciated!

3 Answers 3


If you have questions about a license, you should contact each vendor individually, they will all be more than happy to help you out.

The line you quote above basically means:

You make not make duplications of the library (ie: you can't copy it for your friends). It is for use by a single user only in your audio visual projects (meaning, if your facility has more than one sound person, you need a multi-user license). Synchronization was a term that was originally used before media like games existed, and still remains in many licenses. All of the sound library producers that I know of allow usage in games as part of their license.

I've seen questions like this pop up from time to time, which is why I added specific terms in my my Chuck Russom FX license:

You may:

*Synchronize the Sounds with audio and/or visual productions such as film, television, radio, computer/video games, Internet, and other media

*Use as individual sound assets in games or multimedia projects, across any platform(s)

Even still, it isn't always easy to predict every type of media project someone may want to use licensed sounds in, so, as I said above:

If you ever have a question about licensing terms on any product, you should always contact a vendor and clear up questions before you make a purchase. Only the vendor can explain 100% what their terms are.

  • Thanks chuck, it's just that seeing as every vendor I checked out had pretty much the same line I thought there was some kind of universal rule as to how that clause was put into practice. Time to get emailing!
    – tjohnston
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 20:27

For all the sound effects libraries I've worked with, the main concern was distribution. They don't want their sounds redistributed (i.e. given away for free, or resold).

Synchronization is the key word. If (and it still applies to video games, by the way) the sound is timed to make noise with other media (visuals, graphics, menu selections, other audio), this is considered synchronization and is fine. So if you are using a library sound in time with a gun firing in a game, that's allowed.

If, on the other hand, you were using the sounds and they are not synchronized or 'combined' with anything else that is not allowed.

Additionally, in regard to video games, another main concern was how the sounds would be stored. The sounds needed to be stored in a format that would not allow them to be extracted and redistributed.

  • sounds stored in a game's software folder that the user could just open and copy was not allowed
  • integrating the sounds somehow into the code, or disguising them, was allowed

This was the common practice when I worked with Sound Ideas, Hollywood Edge, Soundsnap, Sounddogs, etc. I also use this at my own site at Airborne Sound.

As Chuck mentioned, the best thing is to contact the library in question and ask.


  • Yeah I'll need to get in touch with the programmer to discuss storage formats. Also another quick question: In your experience would sending raw sound files to the project lead for review be considered acceptable practice or would I have to digitally watermark them in some way perhaps with just audible white noise or something. I'm assuming that'd be another thing to ask specific vendors and I'm almost definitely overthinking all of this, but it'd be great to know the limits of acceptable practice.
    – tjohnston
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 15:00
  • I think most libraries don't want to make it hard for you to do your job. I know I want to make my customers' lives easier, not more complicated! In my opinion if you are sending a sound draft to the project lead just for review purposes it isn't a problem. I personally wouldn't consider that redistribution. -Paul Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 15:25

Most professional game audio engines package the individual WAV files into banks for various reasons. If the audio tool you are using is 3rd party software, you are probably safe. If it is proprietary, it is a very easy thing to bundle data up and avoid individual sound files on disk.

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