While content is the main focus for creators, a growing concern for those that want to use music composed by someone else in their videos, has to be copyright. Generally, creators fall into one of three categories: those who understand copyrighted music issues, those who know just enough about copyright to avoid strikes on their channels, and those who haven’t got a clue.

Ideally, all content creators should be in the first category, but we believe you can get away with a wide understanding. When creators ask about using copyrighted music in videos, especially in relation to their YouTube uploads, the same questions keep coming up; fair use, music licensing, and removed videos. Today, we’ll seek to answer them all. So, let’s start with the most common question we get asked.

10 Q&A About Copyrighted Music on YouTube

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#1 Why do I need permission to use someone else’s music in my video?

You need to obtain permission to use someone else’s music in your video because they are the copyright holder of that content. Using music without permission is illegal and could result in legal action. As such, having permission not only protects you from lawsuits but enables you to use it now and into the future.

#2 How do I get permission to use someone else’s music in my video?

There are generally two ways to get permission to use someone else’s music for your videos. You can contact the musician directly and ask them for permission to use it. This can be done via email, or written or other ways. The musician will need to respond in writing (handwritten or digital/email) stating they are allowing you to use the music. Secondly, you can get permission to use someone’s music by paying a licensing fee for it. Sites that offer royalty or copyright free music provide permission for a fee that can range from a few dollars to tens of thousands.

#3 Why was music I have permission to use removed or blocked?

If you legitimately have permission to use the music, the copyright owner may have changed or it was newly registered with ContentID. In some cases, when an artist signs with a label, their music catalogue becomes copyrighted under the label. This is why it is crucial to have your permission in written format, as you will need to counter the claim and show that the artist has given you permission. The claimant may reinstate the music or you may need to pursue additional legal action.

#4 Why did YouTube let a claimant remove my video?

YouTube allows a claimant to remove your video because they are beholden to the takedown requests of copyright holders. The onus of proving you have the right to use the music in the video is on you, and not on YouTube. You could have the video reinstated if you fight and win against the claimant.

#5 Do I really need a license for music if I only want to make my video available on YouTube?

Absolutely. YouTube is no different to TV, movies, radio or other media outlet. You are creating video content, posting it publicly and hoping an audience views it.

#6 If I use music in my videos can the owner of the music claim royalties or block music used in my video on YouTube?

Presuming that you DO NOT have permission to use the music, yes they can. There are two common punishments through the ContentID system. The owner can monetize the video and take a part or all the money that the video makes. Alternatively, the music can be muted by the owner. To avoid this, you need to get permission to use the music.

#7 How does music work with live streaming?

Live streaming and music work no differently than they do with static uploads. The ContentID system built into YouTube runs during a live broadcast and listens for copyright music. If it finds any violations, your broadcast is immediately terminated and you will receive a copyright strike.

#8 If I terminate my subscription with my music provider can the owner of the music claim my videos on YouTube?

Generally the answer should be, no. If you have a license to use music, that license should continue indefinitely on existing uploads but music subscription services terminate your access to using the music going forward. But the reality is that most music subscription services don’t have the capacity to distinguish between you having had previous subscription and that’s where the trouble with copyright starts. There are a couple of companies that do, however, have a great service where they can keep track of active and inactive subscriptions. You’re safest going with them.

#9 What is the difference between music libraries?

There are many differences between music libraries. The most notable ones include:

  • Catalogue Size – The one thing you will most notably see in different music libraries is the size of their catalogue. Some music libraries may have hundreds of songs, while others may have tens of thousands.
  • Price – Music libraries vary in price significantly. Some can cost thousands for individual tracks, while others offer low-cost monthly subscription fees.
  • User Friendliness – The music library themselves will be unique in how they function. A user-friendly experience is ideal for a creator.
  • License Agreement – The license agreement varies greatly depending on the music service. Some allow you to use the song once, while others allow you to use it as many times as you want.
  • After Canceling – Many music libraries require you cease using their music in future uploads. Yet, current uploads are generally okay.
  • Customer Service – How they treat you as a customer is a major difference between music libraries. Some places have little-to-no-customer service, while others have top notch service.

#10 What does fair use really mean?

Yes, the trickiest of them all. Fair use is a legal concept that allows the use of copyrighted material under certain conditions. There are five factors that contribute to determining whether something is fair use. However, because fair use is often open to interpretation, even if you meet one or more of the factors, it may still not be enough to be fair use. The five factors that help in determining fair use include:

  • The Purpose – If you are using the copyright material for purposes that include education, research, news, criticism, or commentary, they are generally favorable towards fair use. Another consideration is whether your purpose is for-profit or not. Non-profit is more favorable than for-profit cases will be.
  • The Nature – If you are using material that has not been previously published, that is seen unfavorably towards fair usage. Additionally, using factual copyright content is more likely to be fair use than creative work is.
  • The Amount – How much copyright material you use (proportionally) directly impacts fair use. For example, if you use a 3-minute clip of a 4-minute video, that is less likely to be fair use compared to using 15-30 seconds. Also, what you use will matter as well. In the above example, if you use the 15-30 seconds that make the video special/interesting, it may not be fair use.
  • The Value – If your use of a piece of content takes away value from the original piece, it’s less likely to be fair use. Basically, if someone views your piece of content, will they want/need to view the source material? If you’ve taken away the reason to watch the source, that’s not likely fair use.
  • Transformative – If you use the copyright content in a transformative way, it may be considered fair use. Is it a parody, a new technology or a remix? Basically, you need to use the content in a way that has never been done before.

We hoped that answered some of the most pressing questions you have about copyright issues and music in video. Please let us know (on Facebook, or Twitter) about any other music licensing issues you may have and we’ll answer them in the next post.