I would like to use music licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) as on-hold music; however, the only way to provide attribution would be to announce a copyright notice prior to playing the song. That's certainly do-able; however, I've never heard something like that, so that brings me to the question: is it necessary to announce a copyright notice for CC BY 3.0 licensed music when there is no other means of giving attribution?

For reference, the attribution requirement is stated in section 4(b), copied here for reference:

If You Distribute, or Publicly Perform the Work or any Adaptations or Collections, You must, unless a request has been made pursuant to Section 4(a), keep intact all copyright notices for the Work and provide, reasonable to the medium or means You are utilizing: (i) the name of the Original Author (or pseudonym, if applicable) if supplied, and/or if the Original Author and/or Licensor designate another party or parties (e.g., a sponsor institute, publishing entity, journal) for attribution ("Attribution Parties") in Licensor's copyright notice, terms of service or by other reasonable means, the name of such party or parties; (ii) the title of the Work if supplied; (iii) to the extent reasonably practicable, the URI, if any, that Licensor specifies to be associated with the Work, unless such URI does not refer to the copyright notice or licensing information for the Work; and (iv) , consistent with Section 3(b), in the case of an Adaptation, a credit identifying the use of the Work in the Adaptation (e.g., "French translation of the Work by Original Author," or "Screenplay based on original Work by Original Author"). The credit required by this Section 4 (b) may be implemented in any reasonable manner; provided, however, that in the case of a Adaptation or Collection, at a minimum such credit will appear, if a credit for all contributing authors of the Adaptation or Collection appears, then as part of these credits and in a manner at least as prominent as the credits for the other contributing authors. For the avoidance of doubt, You may only use the credit required by this Section for the purpose of attribution in the manner set out above and, by exercising Your rights under this License, You may not implicitly or explicitly assert or imply any connection with, sponsorship or endorsement by the Original Author, Licensor and/or Attribution Parties, as appropriate, of You or Your use of the Work, without the separate, express prior written permission of the Original Author, Licensor and/or Attribution Parties.

  • This is a very interesting question!
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 20:08
  • 1
    You could probably say something like "copyright information available at mywebsite.com" on roughly an hourly basis with the first repetition reasonably early on and comply.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 19:57

3 Answers 3


You have to give attribution by the terms of the license. If that is the only way then that is the way you must do it.


If you distribute music files in one of many standard formats, it is often possible to add text to the metadata of the music. I just opened a random song that I purchased in Apple's Music app, clicked on "Info", then "File" and found under "Copyright" the text "℗ Originally released 1965, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT (P) 1975, 1978, 1990 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT".

For sound recordings, you don't want to interfere with the enjoyment of the recording, while staying legal. For audiobooks, often with 20 or 50 chapters, you could add copyright and license information as the first or last chapter. Easy to skip because the listener doesn't want to hear it again and again. Same for collections of music. In a single song, you should try to get the required info into the file's metadata if at all possible.


Treat as a 'collection', establish your play list, make it maybe 2, or 4 hours worth followed by an all inclusive (if more than one artist) announcement attribution. Loop.

3 or 4 minutes of announcement every 4 hours. "reasonable to the medium" is key.

Watch a movie. Is there attribution immediately onscreen after every song or other type content? No. Its all together in THE CREDITS!

For funny thoughts on topic see below... The real question is, assuming digital content, where is any notice and where is license copy if it is not in the audio? (How was it presented to you?) If a text file or other text method was included with audio file download, maybe the artist has opened the door to a consideration of 'UNreasonable to the medium' if they were to require full vocal attribution with every portion, not every full song, but every fraction of song if the caller just hangs up after 11 seconds.

********edited to add: I do think my idea above is still the best way to go, but, legally you are not actually distributing, nor are you publicly performing, the content. While it is a letter and not spirit issue, technically, following the terms of the license to the letter, you may be standing in a circular depression (loophole) already, without knowing it!

  • How is playing a copyrighted sound recording of music to anyone who phones you not a "public performance"? 17 USC § 101.
    – Upnorth
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 5:13
  • @Upnorth: I think the notion of "public performance" would require not merely that that members of the public might happen to observe a performance, but that members of the public are solicited to observe it. Fair application of that principle would draw a distinction between e.g. a business that solicits phone calls, or even someone who posts a "for-sale" flyer that includes a phone number, and someone who doesn't want to receive any phone calls from strangers.
    – supercat
    Commented May 31 at 16:16

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