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If you Google "animal sounds," Google presents an array of such sound effects. Inspecting the element with a broser allows me to download the effect. There is no licensing information available. May I use these sounds in a commercial project?

enter image description here

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    "Google presents" can be interpreted two ways. One is that Google indiscriminately returns many "animal sounds" from random sources; the other is that Google hosts its own sounds. Your question does not distinguish those two cases, and it's impossible to answer the first version.
    – user6726
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 19:17
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    @user6726 It appears to be the second case.
    – PMF
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 19:18
  • All I see is a link to a YouTube video and then Google has added links to specific parts of that video. What makes you think the license of the video won't apply? Do you see something different? None of this seems related to Google itself.
    – terdon
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 16:09
  • @terdon If you're not seeing the screenshot I just edited into the question this might be a regional thing or some form of A/B testing by Google. Commented May 31, 2022 at 16:30
  • Thanks, @ToddSewell. And no, I don't see that at all. It probably depends on your OS and/or browser (I'm on Arch Linux, using Brave).
    – terdon
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 16:58

3 Answers 3

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Interesting that they don't give a source and also don't link to anywhere (such as Wikimedia commons). So I assume that content is google's own.

So generally speaking: No, when no license is provided, that means you can't use whatever it is in a project of yours (whether commercially or not), because the "default", when nothing is specified, is that no license is given. So unless you find a license that grants you a permission on google's own content, these sounds can't be used freely.

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  • At least one of the sounds on there I'm pretty sure is copyrighted - the "Dinosaur" sound, which seems to be a clip from Jurassic Park. (Since of course we can only imagine what pre-bird dinosaurs actually sounded like.) Commented May 31, 2022 at 13:57
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    @DarrelHoffman That's of course possible, but that's google violating somebody else's copyright, which is an entirely different story. They do that all the time (e.g. by showing images without attribution, use newsfeeds from other sources etc.) but they have the cash and the lawyers to do that.
    – PMF
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 14:02
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    @PMF Also IIRC some court cases ruling that their use to produce an index of things that exist on the internet is a completely different purpose of the original (e.g. entertainment or educational), and thus Google's use is "transformative" and qualifies for fair use (or something like that). There are decent legal theories that would explain why Google's use of the works is different than someone else grabbing the files to use in their own non-search-engine product without a license. (At the least you'd need your own totally different fair use argument)
    – Ben
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 5:39
  • @Ben Yea, I know these discussions (at least in part). But particularly in the EU, Google was sued to pay for displaying third-party content in their newsfeeds. I'm not sure what the outcome was, though. There is no "fair use" rule in EU copyright laws.
    – PMF
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 7:06
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You can "use" Google's link to their sounds, e,g, a scorpion sound, but you cannot copy the content without their permission. It is not obvious whether you have been given permission to copy (and if so, with what limitations). You can read the developer's TOS, which is implicated in using their "Sound Library". The burden would be on you to prove that you have permission to copy their content, so if you find a license that allows you to copy, you also would have to prove that the permission applies applies to the particular file, which you almost certainly cannot do.

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Probably, individually at least.

When I google "animal sounds" I get two sorts of results:

  • Creative works created by humans that involve animal sounds (eg. youtube video). These are clearly protected by copyright and you cannot use them without permission. I assume you do not mean these.
  • Recordings of real animals making sounds (eg. from SeaWorld). I assume this is the sort of thing you mean.

Whether these recording are protected by copyright is not a simple question.

If the recording was made in an automated fashion one could suppose it would be held equivalent to a photograph of an animal taken by an automated camera. In the Monkey selfie copyright dispute the United States Copyright Office stated that works created by a non-human, such as a photograph taken by a monkey, are not copyrightable. The case has been argued in multiple courts, and it seems that the legal process ended when the person who set up the camera ran out of money (which google is unlikely to do), so this cannot be considered definitive.

Collections of animal sounds are likely to involve creative decisions involving which to include. This would mean that the collection is protected by copyright, even if the individual sound files are not.

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  • Note that there have been several paparazi cases in the US and Europe that establish that the photographer, by deciding when to push the camera's shutter button, has expressed enough "creativity" by that decision to become the author of the photograph and thus the copyright holder - not the actor/model in the photo. Similarly the person recording the animal sounds is the copyright holder of the sound. It is extremely unlikely that recordings of animal sounds made completely accidentally/automatically to have a good enough quality to be included in a collection of animal sounds
    – slebetman
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 9:22

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