Can I use it in a film for film festivals since there is no promise for payment by festivals for merely being entered? Do contests fall under commercial use?
I'm specifically asking about portions of songs, but your answer can apply to entire pieces as well.
Intellectual Property Law Attorney
Under which Creative Commons license? there are six types. All require attribution. Some allow modification, others don't. Some allow commercial use, others don't. See an attorney for further details.
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This depends on the specific terms of the specific creative commons license--there are many of them, all of which have different terms and limitations. If the creative commons restricts commercial use, then a film festival is per se a commercial use. People enter film festivals with the hope that their films will receive awards and then find a wider audience---this is a commercial objective. I am very skeptical of using creative common licenses for purposes of using songs in films---this almost never works.