So what makes royalty-free music “royalty-free?”
Royalty free means that someone who purchases a license for a musical work does not need to own the copyright or pay royalties each time the licensee wants to use that musical work. Copyright free, on the other hand, means that the copyright for that musical work has expired and is therefore in the public domain.
A royalty is a monetary request payment made from the copyright holder each time a musical work is used. A royalty is negotiated by the copyright holder, however the ownership of the master recording of a musical work always stays in the hands of the artist or publishing company. In all cases, individuals are able to use the musical work they paid for without changing or modifying the works.
Once again, royalty free means that the licensee does not need to pay or negotiate further payments to use the work, but this does not mean that they own the copyright to the work.