I am in the middle of creating a game and I'm confused about the copyright law for the following songs as I want to use them in my game.

How can I legally use these songs in my game?


3 Answers 3


I am not a lawyer. If you want serious legal advise, ask one. Do not trust anonymous strangers on the internet with providing legal advise to you. But my layman interpretation of international copyright laws would be as follows:

National anthems are usually (but not always) in the public domain. Either because the copyright has expired or they were released as public domain in the first place. But that does only apply to the composition and lyrics. It does not apply to a specific rendition of it. When someone plays a public domain song and records it, they might not own the copyright to the song, but they own the copyright to that recording of the song. So you can not just take any recording of The Star-Sprangled Banner from YouTube and put it in your game. You either need to perform it yourself (for example by entering the notes into your favorite digital audio workstation), ask the performer for permission (who might not be the person who uploaded it) or find a vintage recording which is so old that it is public domain.

In the last case the audio quality will likely be so bad that it won't be suitable unless you want it to sound vintage. But even then you need to be careful. If someone digitalized it and did some filtering touchups ("digital remastering"), that might be enough work for them to claim a copyright.


When a book becomes public domain (say Shakespeare), that doesn't mean you can just grab the book - that'd still be theft. There's a difference between the words and the object that contains them.

With videos and music, there's an additional layer: There's the song, the recording of the song, and the object that holds the recording. If a song is public domain, you can't just grab the CD, that's still theft. Similarly, if a song if public domain, you can't just use the recording without permission. What you can do is make your own recording - time to start singing classes.

If you want to legally use a recording someone else holds the rights to, you need to ask them for permission. If they agree, you can use the recording.


The linked mariachi song is marked as "Jarabe Tapatio" by "Mariachi Silvestre Vargas" who died in October 7, 1985 in Guadalajara... Mexican Copyright law goes for 100 years after the death of the author. Therefore, this work is yet to go into public domain.

With that said, you should be able to find similar music under public domain. Look for something older; anything prior 1800 will be public domain. Yes, the Jarabe Tapatio dance is that old.

I will expand on this since I got comments saying "Jarabe Tapatio" is a folk song with no credited author.

What happens is that the version from the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán is quite old, and it is what you hear everywhere. However, it is not as old as Jarabe Tapatio, which is of unknown author. Now, if the OP wants the version from Mariachi Silvestre Vargas, then that is under copyright.

It is similar to what happened with the Lambada. It was a folk dance from Brazil, and many musicians had lambada songs. Then the group Kaoma popularized the Lambada with their song also called Lambada. Now, when you search Lambada, you find Kaoma's Lambada.

How can you use "Jarabe Tapatio" by "Mariachi Silvestre Vargas" legally? You need to contact Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and negotiate a license.

Alternatively, as I said above, you can find similar music by another author. Hopefully something on public domain.

As per the Mexican anthem, it is considered public domain in U.S.A. and the Mexican government holds the moral rights, but no property rights. This means there is no copyright on it. Although, you still need to credit it as the Mexican anthem.

You should be careful about the interpretation you use, take an official version from the goverment. This is because musicians still have rights over their performance.

You may also use the instrumental version of the Mexican Anthem from Wikimedia

Ok, the U.S.A Anthem. The original music and lyric for The Star-Spangled Banner are fully in public domain. Again, musicians still have rights over their performance.

The Library of Congress has recordings of the Star-Spangled Banner available... although, you would want to remaster this recordings.

So, instead try a version from NASA or one from the U.A Air Force Recordings. There are published under the Freedom of Information Act, and are not under copyright.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gnemlock You did not search enough. From Jarabe Tapatío: The "Jarabe Tapatío", better known internationally as "The Mexican Hat Dance", is a popular Mexican dance. Of course, the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán version is quite old, circa 1940, and you will find it everywhere. Yes, the dance is older and of unknown author. The same Wikipedia article mentions a performance in 1790. If you search for "Jarabe Tapatío" you should be able to find variations of the song with different lyrics and even different rhythm. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theraot
    Mar 15, 2017 at 3:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gnemlock examples: Jarabe Tapatío - JARABE TAPATÍO \$\endgroup\$
    – Theraot
    Mar 15, 2017 at 3:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ i.e. the variation of the song, not the song, itself. But you have affirmed this in an edit, so I will retract my downvote. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gnemlock
    Mar 15, 2017 at 3:55

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