Here's a screenshot of credits after a TV broadcast of a Japanese version of a Broadway musical called "A Night with Janis Joplin".

The whole credits were divided into two distinct sections: one in Japanese related to the TV broadcast by WOWOW, the second in English, clearly relating to the live staging by the Broadway Asia, so I strongly believe the problem in my question pertains to the U.S./international law rather than being Japanese-specific (or a simple translation issue).

The English subsection MUSIC CREDITS lists all the songs used in the musical with their due credits.

After each song, there is a phrase "used by permission" or "used with permission" and sometimes the two are combined (!).

Here's a sample screenshot for four songs (one staged as a medley):

music credits

What is the legal difference between the phrases "used by permission" and "used with permission"?

  • 1
    I don't think the answers from the sister site take into account the legal language english.stackexchange.com/q/164133/139423
    – macraf
    Nov 8, 2022 at 15:04
  • 1
    I tried to hypothesise: moral vs. economic rights, authors living vs. deceased, etc. I can't see any clear pattern.
    – macraf
    Nov 8, 2022 at 19:55
  • 2
    I am not aware of a legal distinction but will refrain from answering to defer to someone who has more first hand experience with the question.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 8, 2022 at 22:02

1 Answer 1


To the best of my understanding:

  • US copyright law does not have anything in particular to say about credits of this nature, for the most part.
    • The law doesn't even say that you have to credit people at all. It just says you have to get a license (i.e. "permission") to use the item in question.
    • Even that is only required when the work is not a "work made for hire" (i.e. any work by an employee of the production company, within the scope of their job).
    • There are some weird situations where the law does require a credit (e.g. a compulsory license acquired under 17 USC 115 requires the licensee to preserve metadata identifying the original song and artist), but this is the exception rather than the rule.
  • The exact wording and ordering of film credits (and TV/other credits) is typically the product of extensive negotiations between all of the people credited, the production company, and (in most cases) their respective unions. It is thus subject to contract law rather than copyright law.
  • Copyright licenses usually mandate some sort of credit be given, except for certain specialized types of work such as ghostwriting (where the whole point is that you don't get credited).
  • Some licenses are more flexible on this point than others. For example, Creative Commons licenses set out a specific list of things that must be included, and mandate that it must appear alongside other credits if there are any, but other than that, you can basically word and display the credit in any way that is "reasonable." However, one-off private licenses will likely be much more specific and restrictive about how the credit is displayed.
  • Speculating: It may be the case that different attorneys drafted different licensing agreements with different credit phrasings wholly by accident, or for no particular reason, simply due to a lack of direct coordination. In other words, nobody was actively trying to make sure all the credits matched, so they didn't.

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