Music, Copyright & Youtube: Fair Use, Public Domain & DMCA

The aim of this article is to help you better understand the copyright principles, such as fair use, public domain and creative commons licensing, that you need to be aware of when including music in your YouTube videos. At the end of the page, there are also a few links regarding where to find music that you can legally use as background music in your video.

Why should you learn about this?

if you are involved with creating videos for YouTube, you are automatically a worldwide media production company. Congratulations! However, music copyright laws were not set up to accommodate today’s social media landscape, in which hundreds of thousands of amateur and semi-professional videos makers are creating works that can be viewed almost anywhere in the world. The relevant laws and music licensing processes tend to be complex, restrictive and ambiguous, best to be dealt with by a media company’s legal team, yet here we all are making videos, so until the laws change, we better learn more about our rights and responsibilities. This page is long (sorry), but only represents a summary of the main issues. A lot of people on the Internet seem to be basing their advice on what they would like copyright laws to be rather than on what the laws really are, so there is a lot of bad advice out there. My approach is to err on the side of caution.

If you have a specific question, you can check the list of questions below or send your question via the comments sections.

1. Music Copyright Basics
1.1 What parts of the song are copyrighted?
1.2 Which country’s copyright laws would I be following?
1.3 If I wanted to use copyrighted music legally, what kind of license would I need?
1.4. What is copyright free-music?

2. Public Domain & Licensed Music
2.1 What is public domain?
2.2 How old is old enough?
2.3 Why is a music publisher saying they own the copyright to my recording of a work by Beethoven?
2.4 What is copyfraud?
2.5 Is their any danger if I use pre-recorded audio loops in my music?

3. Creative Commons
3.1 What is Creative Commons?
3.2 Am I safe if use Creative Commons licensed songs?

4. Fair Use
4.1 What is fair use?
4.2 What are the criteria for determining fair use?
4.3 What about parody?
4.4 What about anime music videos (AMVs)?
4.5 What about mashups?
4.6 What about cover versions?
4.7 What about remixes?
4.8 If I use a karaoke track of a cover song, add my own words and upload to YouTube, is that allowed?

5. YouTube Policies
5.1 What is YouTube’s policy concerning copyrighted music?
5.2. What can you do if you receive a copyright claim against your video?
5.3 My video has been deleted: DMCA and the counter-notification process
5.4 So, if I post something and don’t get a notice then I am safe, right?
5.5 I got a notice about my video saying that someone is claiming copyright, but that I don’t have to do anything. I’m safe, right?
5.6 I got a YouTube copyright strike! Will it ever go away?
5.7 Can I cheat YouTube’s content match system?
5.8 Is it OK if I use copyright-protected music without permission as long as I post a statement saying I do not own the music and I properly credit the artist?
5.9 Is it OK if I use copyright-protected music and set the video to Private or Unlisted?

6. Licensing
6. Can I license music from a pop star?

7. Free Music Resources
7. Where can I get music to use as background music?

1. Music Copyright Basics

The following video by Tom Scott has a great video on the basics of music copyright, fair use, YouTube and the Content ID system.

1.1 What parts of the song are copyrighted?

The composition (including the music and any lyrics) and recording are protected by separate copyrights. The purpose of copyright is to try to ensure people responsible for making the music can earn a living from their work.

It is important to note that the composition and recording are covered by separate copyrights, so even if you were to change the words to the song and record all the instruments yourself, the music (melody, harmony and basic arrangement) is still protected by copyright.

Things that might break copyright laws would include:

  • Playing a song from your favorite band as background music in your video
  • Uploading your own cover version of that song
  • Uploading an instrumental version of the song
  • Posting the entire lyrics on your website
  • Uploading a video that contains a song playing in the background on a radio

Of course, this kind of stuff can be seen all over YouTube. That, however, does not mean that those videos are not in breach of copyright law. You may do the exact same thing as a hundred other videos on YouTube and find that your video has been banned and your account is in danger of termination. With YouTube’s current system, any time you upload anything that is copyrighted, there is a risk that you will earn a copyright strike. If you accumulate three strikes, your account is terminated.

The last item on the above list of copyright infringing practices—uploading a video that contains a song playing in the background on a radio—catches many people by surprise. The audio is often of low quality, so it is not like anyone would download it, and in many such cases, the music was recorded by accident. There is no way your use of the music would affect the earning of the artist; however, this does not give you the right have the song playing in your video. One of the purposes of copyright (besides trying to protect artists financially) is to give artists control over how their work is used, and not every artist wants his/her music playing in an advertisement, in a movie or in your home video of a baby dancing.

1.2 Which country’s copyright laws would I be following?

There is no international Copyright law, only an agreement for countries to respect each other’s copyright law. Therefore, which country’s law should be applied. is not international.
When deciding jurisdiction in international copyright cases, courts will generally look at where countries where there is a direct connection to the case. For example, that could be the
country where the material was copied and uploaded and/or the country where the damage to the target market would be greatest. For example if a someone in the US uploads a Bollywood song to YouTube, possible jurisdiction, a copyright case related to that could be heard in America (where the act if infringement took place, where the infringer lives, where YouTube is based and where most of YouTube’s servers are based) or in India (where the work was first published and, more importantly, where the the main target audience of the material resides. For more information, you can read the following articles:

In many ways, current copyright laws are unsuitable for how people are using the Internet. If you are uploading to YouTube, allowing your videos to be accessed around the world, it would be a good idea to make sure your work is at least in line with American copyright law. If you want to be especially safe, can also try to make sure that your work is in line with the jurisdictions the country where you live and of countries with a clear connection to the original work (e.g., the country with the main target audience).

1.3 If I wanted to use copyrighted music legally, what kind of license would I need?

The different kinds of music licenses and royalties are introduced here: Basically, there are three kinds:

  • Mechanical license (giving you the right to publish, distribute and/or sell your own audio recording of a copyrighted song—an audio-only cover version)
  • Synchronization license (giving you the right to set your cover version to video and publish the video). That is, you have the right to use in your video the musical composition, but not the recording.
  • Master Use license AND Synchronization license (giving you the right to use an existing copyrighted recording—Master Use—of a copyrighted song—Synchronization—in your video). If the same person(s) holds the copyright to both the composition and recording, these licenses can be combined into a single ‘Synchronization and Master Use’ license. If you want to use a recording of a song that is no longer protected by copyright (e.g., a Mozart piano sonata), you would just need the Master Use license.

To legally sell your cover version of a song on iTunes or post your audio-only cover on Bandcamp, you would need the first. To legally upload a video of your cover version, you would need the second (though almost no one will actually obtain this). To legally upload a video that contains an existing audio recording by your favorite artist, you would need the third. These licenses are discussed in more detail towards the end of this page. Getting a Mechanical license is straightforward, but Synchronization licenses and Master Use licenses are not always easy to obtain (if there are a few different songwriters, you would need to negotiate a fee with each one!) and Master Use licenses are typically very expensive.

Of course, if an up-and-coming performer or composer is looking for free publicity, it never hurts to ask him/her to just give you written permission to use the song.

1.4 What is copyright-free music?

I think people who use this term really mean “music that is:

  • In the public domain or
  • Published under a Creative Commons licence or
  • Licensed
  • Published by a (badly-named) channel like No Copyright Sounds (NCS). Songs on NCS are in fact copyrighted, but you can use the songs provided you follow the specified terms.

Only public domain music can really be considered copyright-free.

2. Public Domain and Licensed Music

Only public domain music can be considered truly copyright-free.

2.1 What is public domain?

Once a work is old enough, it enters the public domain and can be freely distributed, performed and recorded without you having to obtain a license or pay royalties.

Some people have the misconception that if something is posted on YouTube, it becomes a public domain work. This is a completely wrong idea.

Composers and musicians may release their work into the public domain at any time, meaning they give up all control over the work. This, however, is extremely rare.

Also, people tend to forget that the composition as well as performance enjoys copyright protection; therefore, while a Beethoven composition will be in the public domain, a recorded performance of this work would most likely NOT be in the public domain.

2.2 How old is old enough?

The laws that govern exactly how old a musical work must be before it enters the public domain differ from country to country and also tend to become more restrictive over time. As new laws are passed, copyright terms tend to be longer and longer as evidenced in this video that is amusing and disturbing in equal measure: Copyright: One Day Less than Forever.

A work may be in the public domain in one country while still being under copyright protection in another country. For example, musical compositions published in America before 1923 are in the public domain. For works published between 1923 and 1977, they enter the public domain 95 years after their initial publication. And for works published from 1978 on, they are protected for 70 years after the death of the composer (if there is more than one composer, you start counting after the death of the last one). To make matters worse, a legal technicality means that most recordings of music in the US will not enter the public domain until 2067! ( In the US, recordings made since after 1922 are NOT in the public domain unless the copyright owner has explicitly placed them in the public domain. For sound recordings made prior to 1923, most of these are actually still copyright protected under various state laws. The exact details for when a work enters the public domain in the USA are here:

In other jurisdictions, the copyright term may be different. For example, in Canada and Hong Kong, works enter the public domain 50 years after the death of the composer; while in European Union countries and Russia, the figure is 70 years. It is possible that your video might include music that is in the public domain in Canada, but not in European Union counties, so YouTube would be within it’s rights to block your video in those countries.

At the moment, I am recording one of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s preludes (Op. 23 No. 6) and posting it to YouTube. The piece was published in 1903, so it is in the public domain in America. Rachmaninoff died on 28 March 1943, so that makes it in the public domain in Canada, but not in the EU (Note: At the time the article was first posted, it was not, but now it is).

2.3 Why is a music publisher saying they own the copyright to my recording of a work by Beethoven?

To complicate matters, most classical musicians play from sheet music, which is itself copyrighted by publishing companies. Though a composition may be in the public domain, a new arrangement of the composition (e.g., a saxophone quartet version of Pachebel’s Canon) would be considered a derivative work and would be protected by copyright law. It is not clear how substantial the changes must be in order for the new version to be considered a derivative work. Would adding more detailed articulation and dynamics make it a new work? Probably not, though sheet music publishers may disagree (this issue is explained in more detail in the second part of the Public Domain Sherpa link: If you are in a school symphonic band or orchestra, it is very likely that whatever you are playing has been heavily adapted and therefore is NOT in the public domain.

This is why when you post your own performance of a classical piece or an old folk song, you will sometimes get Content ID matches or copyright claims even though your work is definitely in the public domain. In most cases, the claim will come from a legitimate publishing rights collection agency that is making the claim on behalf of a music publisher. They are basically claiming that they own the performance rights and reproduction rights to their ‘new’ version of the work. It is up to you whether you want to challenge their interpretation of copyright law.

In some cases, however, when you get a copyright claim notice for a public domain work, you might be the victim of something known as copyfraud.

2.4. What is copyfraud and how does it apply to public domain recordings?

Copyfraud is a kind of abuse of copyright. In some cases, copyright claims on public domain music are completely spurious—simply the work of con artists trying to monetize as many videos as possible. A company which is now causing a lot of grief on YouTube is GoDigital MG (Media Group), which seems to be combining two roles: legitimately collecting advertising revenue for copyrighted works while also making fraudulent claims on public domain works and songs that include licensed loops from software like GarageBand. This problem is discussed in detail here: YouTube Copyfraud & Abuse of the Content ID System

2.5 In my songs or videos, I sometimes use audio samples from purchased collections or that come with video editing or music recording software. Is there any danger if I post these songs/videos to YouTube?

Yes. There are a lot of people making music almost entirely from pre-recorded audio loops or who use some loops in their songs (not everyone has a drummer on hand!). These loops can come with software like GarageBand, Cakewalk, Final Cut or iMovie or they can be purchased in collections (e.g., SoundPool Sony, Cyclicks).

The most common problem occurs when someone else uses the same loop in his/her song and then has that song entered into YouTube’s Content ID Match system. The other person can basically end up claiming copyright over all songs containing that loop, including yours. Of course you can dispute this claim, but if the other person insists his/her work is entirely original, your dispute may fail.

If you are planning on monetizing your videos or selling your music, you better carefully read the terms of use of the loop packages. For example, the loops that come pre-packaged with Magix Music Maker (Soundpool Collection 17 or above) are not intended for commercial use and you would need to buy an additional commercial licence for such use. In contrast, loops from earlier collections from the same company (e.g., Soundpool Collection 16) are royalty-free and can be used commercially in original compositions.

If you are a composer/musician that uses loops extensively, it would be irresponsible to have collection agencies like CD Baby or Believe administer the copyright for your work and enter it into YouTube’s Content ID Match system. Just don’t do it.

Similarly, some video makers make use of the background music sample provided in video editing software programs. These songs may also get incorrectly entered into the Content ID system.

3. Creative Commons

Some musicians are now releasing work under Creative Commons (CC) Licenses (

3.1.What is Creative Commons

This is a new scheme meant to allow artists to share their work more freely, while not giving up complete control. There is no formal registration process, so musicians and composers can just write in a video description that they are using a Creative Commons licence. There are six main kinds of licences:

  • Attribution (CC BY) (The user needs to credit the creator)
  • Attribution Share Alike (CC BY-SA) (The user needs to credit the creator and the the new work, whatever it is, should have the same Creative Commons license.
  • Attribution No Derivatives (CC BY-ND) (The user needs to credit the creator; the user may use, but may not adapt or remix the original work).
  • Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC)(The user needs to credit the creator; the work may only be used for free for non-commercial purposes; however, the creator, is free to make other arrangements for people who want to use the work commercially)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)

There are some things you need to watch out for. If the license includes a non-commercial (NC) restriction, you would not be able to monetize your video unless the copyright owner gives you permission. Once you start monetizing videos, you can no longer claim that they are non-commercial.

If the license includes a no-derivatives (ND) restriction, then you do NOT have the right to use the music in a video as you are creating a new work—’an adaptation’ according to the wording of the CC license. If you want to use a piece of music that is licensed with the ND attribute, simply ask for permission and you will likely get a favorable reply (I don’t think many people know about how the ND restriction works and probably never intended to prevent you from using their music in a video).

3.2 So I am safe if I use music published under a Creative Commons license, right?


What if a musician with poor knowledge of copyright does something like upload an instrumental version of a copyrighted song and then upload this recorded version under a Creative Commons license. The music composition is copyrighted, so you could still find yourself in trouble with the music publisher if you use the recording.

Creative Commons licenses are irrevocable, but people often remove them anyways. Media companies like YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo and Soundcloud all allow uploaders to ‘cancel’ their Creative Commons licenses. What happens if the composer of the Creative Commons licensed song you are using in your video suddenly removes the license information and asks you to pay for its use? You would legally be in the right to refuse (Hey, the licence is irrevocable!), but do you have proof the song was published under a CC license? If you ever use CC licensed work, I would recommend that you record the download date and the URL and get a screen capture of the licence information.

Here is a tough luck case in which a YouTuber used YouTube’s own video editor, which allows you to mix videos that have been published with a CC license to create new videos. Two of his videos were later deleted and he received two copyright strikes because someone else published something under a CC licence and either didn’t have the necessary rights to do that and/or ‘cancelled’ the licence:!msg/youtube/HEMd4WQcTlk/Z4xEqVXDHvgJ

4. Fair Use

Fair use is an important concept to know, especially if you are doing music reviews or educationational.

4.1 What is fair use?

Fair use is an exemption to American copyright law that allows people to make use of limited amounts of copyrighted works for the purposes of education, criticism,commentary and parody without permission. The kinds of purposes associated with fair use are spelled out in the actual law: “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

Of course other purposes may fall under fair use, but the examples given all have to do with the advancement of knowledge. Those purposes explicitly mentioned seem to related mainly to to non-fiction, non-creative works; however, it is important to note that creative works of art also carry their own meanings and can provide a kind of commentary on society, concepts, individuals and other works of art.

Therefore, if you are going to rely on fair use, you should look at

  • The extent to which your new work advances knowledge.and/or
  • The extent to which your new work makes its own artistic statement.

4.1.1 Fair use is not a universal concept
Copyright laws differ from nation to nation. In describing fair use, many countries have a very similar principle in their copyright laws, though it is sometimes referred to as fair dealing rather than as fair use.

Fair dealing exemptions can be found in the copyright laws of many Commonwealth countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and England. Fair dealing exemptions tend to be more restrictive, with the purposes of use allowed under fair dealing being more clearly defined, For example, parody as a fair dealing defense was only added to Canadian copyright law in 2011.

However, In the copyright laws of some countries, like Japan, there is no overriding principle of fair use at all. Instead there are very specific and very narrowly defined exemptions, none of which cover things like YouTube reviews or parodies. Japanese copyright law also grants moral rights to copyright owners, among which is the right to preserve the integrity of a work. This right enables claims against those who distort, remove, or conduct any other modifications without authorization.

As laws differ from country to country, if you are involved in disputes with copyright owners from a country without a fair use principle in its copyright law, you should bear in mind they their attitudes towards your use of the work will be informed by the laws of their own country. Therefore, you may have a difficult time convincing the copyright owners to accept your standpoint.

4.1.2 The subjective and vague nature of fair use
First, exactly what constitutes fair use is subjective and depends on four criteria (these are described below). You can say your use of copyrighted work constitutes fair use; however, the copyright owner might disagree. In such a case, who would decide? It would basically require a court case. The courts would decide whether your use falls under fair use provisions. Thus, fair use can be considered as a legal defense against claims of copyright infringement. YouTube, of course, is not a court. Therefore, it has no right to determine whether something constitutes fair use.

Second, YouTube gives copyright owners the benefit of the doubt in almost all cases. In an article entitled Content ID and and Fair Use in the Google Public Policy Blog, Shenaz Zack (Product Manager) states that “rights holders are the only ones in a position to know what is and is not an authorized use of their content, and we require them to enforce their policies in a manner that complies with the law” ( I would argue that YouTube’s interpretation is wrong here; not all copyright owners are infallible and impartial arbiters when it comes to something like fair use. Many copyright owners routinely reject fair use claims (perhaps because so many people make bogus claims). If you are looking for information about what to do if your claim is rejected, you can go to Section 5.3 to find out about submitting appeals and counter-notifications.

Third, the criteria that are used to determine fair use are purposefully left ambiguous and vague. For example, if you are doing a commentary of a famous rock album. How much of any one song can you use before you are using too-much-to-be-fair-use? Is 10% OK? What about 25%? There are no exact guidelines because copyright laws are left ambiguous to allow decisions to be adapted to a wide variety of circumstances and to new forms of media and technology.

Fourth, there is no way to apply for anything like a ‘fair use license’ before using a copyrighted work. Such a thing does not exist. Of course, you can still ask for permission to use a work, but there is no formal mechanism for applying for fair use exemptions or permissions.

4.2 What are the criteria for determining fair use?

There is no exact formula for determining fair use, but in a court case, four aspects would be considered:

4.2.1 The nature of the original work
If the original work is factual in nature (rather than a creative work), then using it would more likely fall under the category of fair use. Unfortunately, music is basically creative in nature (an exception might be a performance by a musician demonstrating various music styles).

4.2.2 The amount of the original work used and it’s role in the new work
There is no exact figure for how much of an original work can be used, but in the education field, using 10% of an original work would probably be considered the limit. However, if you re-publish something that is considered a very crucial element to the work, such as a YouTube video clip showing the entire incinerator scene in Toy Story 3, that might be considered too much. One exception where using a longer excerpt might be considered fair use would be in a music tutorial video—you can argue that it is necessary to play the whole song, or at least most of the song, in order to teach people how to play it. The factors related to ‘time’ include:

  • How much of the original work is used
  • The proportion of the original work used
  • How important that portion of the original work is in relation to the entire original work
  • How necessary it is to show that amount in order to make your point
  • How much of your own content you are bringing to the table and how the original work relates to your own content

Everything depends on the context. If I upload a 15-second clip of the Simpsons with nothing added, that would not be fair use. However, if I used a 45-second clip of the Simpsons in the middle of a twenty-minute commentary about the role of the cartoon on pop culture, I would be on much firmer ground when arguing fair use.

4.2.3 The size of the potential audience and the ability of the new work to affect the potential market value of an existing work
Showing something in class to 30 people is not the same as posting it on YouTube, with a potential audience of millions. This criterion is related to the potential of your use of the work to affect the market value, and potential future market value, for the work. Of course, the smaller the actual and potential audience, the better your chance of your use of the work being considered fair use. Putting something on YouTube, however, makes it very difficult to meet this criteria unless you have really transformed the nature of the music (see the next point) or have used a very small proportion of the music (see the previous point). You need to be aware that anything you can upload can be downloaded using online video-downloading sites, so if you put a whole song online, you are basically offering it free for the entire world. And yes, there are people who build up their mp3 collections by downloading the soundtracks of YouTube videos.

4.2.4. The purpose of the use and the extent to which you have transformed the purpose of the original work
If the purpose is for non-commercial use, especially for education, criticism and commentary, or for strictly personal use, this would increase the chances of the use of the work being considered fair use. Also important, however, is the extent to which your new work transforms the purpose of the original work. One example of a commercial use that could be considered fair use would be a commercial movie review webcast using short clips of movies to demonstrate the points made by the film reviewers. The purpose of the original movie may be entertainment, but your use of the clips can be considered as a form of criticism or commentary.

With regard to music, if you just do a cover of a song, there is no transformation of the melody, harmony and lyrics, and there is no transformation of the purpose, so a straightforward cover version would not be considered fair use. However, if you do song tutorials in which you teach people how to play the song on the guitar, you have transformed the purpose of the song (it is now serving an educational purpose), so you would be in a much stronger position to claim fair use.

Even if the purpose of your new work is educational, however, you would also need to look at if your use of the original work is necessary for that purpose. If you are teaching people how to play a song, obviously the use of that song is necessary. In contrast, if you are creating an educational video about physics and want to liven it up with a pop song in the background, the use of music would not be considered relevant to the educational purpose of the video and its use would not be considered fair use.

To sum up, almost all uses of copyrighted music that you normally see in YouTube videos uploaded by non-copyright holders would not meet most of the four criteria and would not fall under the category of fair use.

Here is a video with legal experts discussing the possibility of applying fair use arguments to a number of different situations involving YouTube videos. Their favorite words seem to be: “that depends”, “that’s tricky”, “that’s hard to say” and, of course, “that’s ambiguous”. In reality, the answer for a lot of questions concerning ‘Can I use legally use music in this way?’, is simply ‘No’, but I got impression the experts were trying to be as open-minded (and non-discouraging) as possible. It’s a long video, but worth watching if you are interested in things like cover versions, video-game commentaries and parody as the speakers discuss the legal issues surrounding these cases.

4.3 What about parody?

This is a controversial topic. Parody involves the deliberate imitation of a work, usually in order to make fun of it or comment on it in some way. It is considered a form of derivative work—meaning something based on an existing work. In many jurisdictions (such as the USA), parody can be considered a form of fair use if certain conditions are met and is thus protected from copyright claims from the owner of the original work. In the United States and Britain, for example, a parody can be considered to be fall under fair use if the new work can be interpreted as a comment or criticism of the existing work. In Canada, however, there is no such protection.

Parody becomes an even more troublesome concept when music is concerned. Most music parodies make fun of the performance style of the performer and the lyrics of the song; however, the actual music (the melody and harmony) remains unchanged. Thus, although the performance and lyrics are imitations, the music—which is also protected by copyright—is not. One key factor would be the extent to which the purpose of the original performance has been changed (e.g., from Lady Gaga entertaining you with her music to you criticizing Lady Gaga’s music, lyrics and performance style through your parody of her song).

The most famous music parodist, Weird Al Yankovic, does get permission from the performers and copyright holders before recording his parodies of their songs.

4.4 What about mashups and Anime Music Videos (AMVs)?

Regarding AMVs, no, sorry, these are not protected from copyright claims (though you may find opinions to the contrary). In an interesting article on copyright law, AMVs and the new culture of re-mix creation, Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig calls for a new way of considering intellectual property, but admits that the existing laws do not really allow for uses such as AMVs:

“Yet the law of intellectual property will not easily accommodate this remix creativity. As the rules are written today, even for purely noncommercial purposes, there is no clear right on the side of the remixers….the law today speaks firmly: there is no freedom for this sort of creativity. There is no way to even license the right.”)

The main problems are that:

  • The original work is creative in nature (failing to meet the first criteria).
  • Large amounts if not all of the original song is used (failing to meet the second criteria).
  • People can now download the song using YouTube downloading software instead of buying the music. Because people do download mp3 audio-only files from videos posted on YouTube, you are making the music available to a huge potential market (failing to meet the third criteria).
  • And finally, while possibly adding a layer of meaning to the song through visual imagery and probably using the music on a non-commercial basis, you are not transforming the purpose. It is still mainly entertainment (thus, only partially meeting the fourthcriteria).

As anime music videos really do not meet any of the four criteria, it would be wishful thinking to claim fair use when uploading them.

4.5 What about Mashups?

For mashups, there is some legal ambiguity. the MAY fall under fair use. It would really depend on how much of an original work is used and how much a piece is transformed. The problem with mashups is that mashup creators tend to use a lot of the original works, do not transform the purpose (the original was for entertainment and the mashup is usually for entertainment) and do not bring much to the table besides editing skills. The argument against the last two points is that mashups, by juxtaposing two or more unrelated works, CAN shed new light on the meanings of each work or the creative process or some other subject. This counterargument is the key. If you buy into that, mashups can be considered to fall under fair use. If you don’t buy into it, mashups are just a fun exercise in editing and copyright infringement.

What about the Pop Danthology or DJ Earworm’s mashups? Can they be considered a kind of criticism of the sameness of contemporary pop music? Can they be considered entirely new artistic creations?

To sum up, mashups are in the greyest of grey areas when it comes to copyright infringement. Here is a good article discussing both points of view:

4.6 What about cover versions?

As mentioned before, the music (combination of melody and harmony) and lyrics are protected by copyright, so even if you are changing the arrangement, the song is basically still the same. If you upload cover versions, you are technically breaking copyright law. However, even if your cover version is detected via YouTube’s Content-ID match system, in almost all cases, music publishers, composer collection agencies and artists are content with earning money through advertising and will not pull things like cover versions of songs (Update: There is now a feature in which copyright owners can elect to share advertising revenue with cover artists who are YouTube partners).

The key word in the above paragraph is ‘almost’. If that is your thing—doing cover versions—and you are posting a few hundred of them, there is a good chance you will come across an ornery individual or company. Here is David Choi’s experience:

One interesting thing that although there are copyright issues with uploading cover versions to YouTube, you are able to sell cover versions on iTunes legally and quite easily. This is because to make and sell audio recordings of cover songs, you only need to get a mechanical licence, which is quite easy. Though you would need to pay royalties to the songwriters, this is handled by a performance rights organisation.

If you want upload a video completely legally, however, you also need to get permission from the copyright holders and negotiate a synchronization license (if you also wanted to sell MP3s of your version, you would need a mechanical licence as well), which can cost a lot of money and is not always easy to obtain. For lesser known songs, however, it might even be possible to get such a license for free, as shown in this video:

4.7 What about remixes

If you create your own remix and upload a video containing it without permission from the whoever owns the copyright of the original composition and whoever owns the copyright of the recording, you would be infringing copyright. A remix wouldn’t fall under fair use provisions. This is because there is no critical or educational value, the original is a creative work designed to entertain, the remix is a creative work designed to entertain, there is no transformation of purpose and large amounts of the original work have been used.

It may be true that a new work has been created, but this would be a derivative work rather than a transformative one.

If you upload a video containing someone else’s remix without permission, you are adding a third copyright infringement to the list: that of the remix producer.

You would be infringing copyright in two areas: (1) the actual recording of the karaoke track would almost certainly be protected by copyright and (2) the music part of the composition is still protected by copyright.

4.8 If I use a karaoke track of a cover song, add my own words and upload to YouTube, is that allowed?

You would be infringing copyright in two areas: (1) the actual recording of the karaoke track would almost certainly be protected by copyright and (2) the music part of the composition is still protected by copyright.

5. YouTube Policies

The section deals with YouTube’s policies related to copyright issues.

5.1 What is YouTube’s policy concerning copyrighted music?

YouTube is caught in a difficult situation. Much of the content and traffic on the website (and therefore much of the revenue) comes from the illegal use of copyrighted music and visual elements. To solve this problem, YouTube gives copyright holders the power to take down videos containing their work, monetize them or simply do nothing. To do this, YouTube makes use of an amazingly powerful music content matching system that can identify copyrighted music within seconds.

One problem with YouTube’s approach is that it creates a lot of misunderstandings. Some users are punished by having their accounts terminated (becoming something like sacrificial lambs slaughtered to appease powerful media companies), while other users with exactly the same copyright issues have their videos promoted as suggested videos. The following video, featuring a representative of the company, does a great job of explaining  how their copyright policy works, though you might not like to hear what she says.

Another criticism is that YouTube doesn’t seem to be checking very carefully to see if the people and organisations claiming copyright under the content ID match system actually own the copyright to the content they are claiming (leading to the copyfraud problem).

Apparently, YouTube has privately reached an agreement with some media companies. Basically, the media companies allow their copyrighted work to be uploaded and then they monetize the videos; however, it has never been made public exactly which companies are involved. If you are using copyrighted music in your work, the least you can do is talk to people doing similar things (e.g., making AMVs) and find out which companies are aggressive in protecting their work and avoid using anything from these companies.

5.2. What can you do if you receive a copyright claim against your video?

There are two kinds of procedures. One is for disputing challenging ID matches while the other is for challenging the decision to take down videos. This second type—a DMCA counter-notification is covered in the next section.

When you receive a content ID match or copyright infringement notice, you will also be asked if you want to appeal the claim. If you are confident that the work is in the public domain worldwide or that your work is really fair use, you can take this option. The challenge would be passed on to the person or entity claiming copyright, who would then have 30 days to review your case and decide whether to uphold their claim or release it (or take a third option, which is to order your video to be taken down). If they uphold their claim, you can continue the process by disputing the appeal. The company then has 30 days to respond, either by dropping the claim or by taking legal action in the form of a takedown notice. In the latter case, your video is deleted and a copyright strike is issued to your account (

Quite often, however, publishing rights collection agencies will only want to earn money from your videos (by putting ads next to them) or block them in certain countries. In such cases, you may not feel that it is worth the trouble to contest the claim, though you should be aware that the copyright holders can change their policy—block, take down or monetize—at any time.

DMCA takedown notices are more troublesome, and if you get three of these, your YouTube account is terminated. If you want to challenge a takedown notice, you have to file a counter-DMCA notification ( You can view this video showing the counter-notification process in detail:

5.3 My video has been deleted: DMCA and the counter-notification process

OK, so your video had been deleted for copyright infringement. What do you do? You need to issue a DMCA counter-notification ( If you have had repeated copyright infringements, however, you may not be allowed to issue a counter-notification.

Under the terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), content hosting sites like YouTube are protected from liability against copyright claims as long as they abide by certain guidelines. Thus, the DMCA serves as a kind of Safe Harbor. One thing YouTube must do to protect itself form liability is to remove content upon the request of a copyright holder (thus, the dreaded DMCA takedown notice). However, YouTube is also required to give content creators the opportunity to challenge such removals.

To have your video reinstated, you would need to complete the online counter-notification form (if your account has been deleted, you might need to send in a hard copy). Your personal details and contact information (including your address as well as other personal information) as well as your explanation as to why you you believe there is no copyright infringement would then be forwarded to the party claiming ownership of the content you have alledgely used inappropriately. That party would then have ten business days in which to notify YouTube that it is taking legal action against you. You therefore need to take the counter-notification process seriously. You are basically saying, “Oh yeah, so sue me then.” Ideally, you should get proper legal advice before submitting a counter-notification. Also, do be on the lookout for fraudsters. Because your personal information is forwarded to the supposed copyright holder, a new kind of fraud has come to light. Apparently, false copyright claims are being made for the sole purpose of harvesting the personal information, which can then be sold on.

What should happen after submitting the counter-notification is that either a) you get sued (congratulations!) or b) the copyright claim is dropped and your video goes back online (congratulations!). This is how the process is supposed to work.

However, sometimes, something strange happens. Instead, you can get c) you don’t get sued, but the claim against your video is upheld by YouTube and your video remains deleted. What? Can YouTube legally do this? It seems they can. In a comment on his own blog post YouTube Refuses to Honor DMCA Counter-Notices, Patrick McKay explains:

Sadly there is no actual affirmative requirement in the DMCA to follow either the takedown procedure or the counter-notice procedure. The DMCA is a safe harbor, which means if you follow it you are safe from civil liability on other grounds. If you take down a video, you are safe from liability for copyright infringement, which entails statutory damages of up to $150,000. If you follow the counter-notice procedure, the only liability you are safe from is breach of contract, since baring some contractual relationship, a private website like YouTube has no legal obligation to host your content. YouTube’s terms of service, which are the only government contract here, expressly insulate them from an liability for refusing to host a video, even if it is not infringing. They only say they “may” restore the video, not that they will.

YouTube could be doing a lot more to shut down false copyright claims, preserve the privacy of its users and protect the concept of fair use. If YouTube uploaders get three copyright strikes, their accounts are terminated, why can’t a similar principle being applied to people making spurious claims?

5.4 So, if I post something and don’t get a notice then I am safe, right?

Um…no. As YouTube refines its content matching system to make it even more powerful, your video might get taken down later. It is a common experience.

5.5 I got a notice about my video saying that someone is claiming copyright, but that I don’t have to do anything. I’m safe, right?

Sorry, that’s another no. The copyright holders can change their minds at any time and issue a DMCA takedown notice on a video they had previously approved for monetization. Personally, I prefer not having any of my videos having copyright claims on them because it means someone a third party has power over whether my videos will continue to be seen or be deleted.

5.6 I got a YouTube copyright strike! Will it ever go away?

These used to be permanent. Now, after six months have passed without any copyright issues popping up on your channel, you may find that the strike has disappeared. No notification will be given.

5.7 Can I cheat YouTube’s content match system?

It is definitely possible, but this usually involves changing the speed and/or pitch of the song and generally messing up the song in the process. The result of this is that you may alienate your viewers and if your song is detected, there is an increased risk that it will be taken down.

5.8 Is it OK if I use copyright-protected music without permission as long as I post a statement saying I do not own the music and I properly credit the artist?

No. You can do this as a form of courtesy to the original artist, but unless you are using public domain music or your use is really consistent with fair use, your use of music would still be in breach of copyright law. On the one hand, at least you are giving credit. On the other hand, with such a statement, you are openly admitting to breaking copyright law as well as YouTube’s own terms of service. In any case, using such statements will not be useful in persuading a copyright holder not to have your video removed.

5.9 Is it OK if I use copyright-protected music and set the video to Private or Unlisted?

No. This will have no effect. The Content ID match system can still detect your song and copyright strikes can still be given. This is because this video setting can be changed anytime.

6. Licensing

It is possible to license music from an artist, but it is extremely difficult unless you are dealing with an unsigned (i.e., they don’t have a contract with a record company) songwriter/musician. In this case, you can send an e-mail requesting use of the song. Maybe they would appreciate some exposure.

If it is a song by a well known performer, however, things become incredibly difficult. You would need to get permission from the music composer(s,) the lyricist(s), the publisher, the performer(s) and/or the record company (whoever owns the copyright for the music, lyrics and performance). If any of the people are dead, you would need to seek out their family members. You would need to get a Synchronization License (giving you the right to include the song in a video) from the owners of the musical composition (music and lyrics) and a Master Use license (giving you the right to use a specific artist’s version of the song in the video) from the owner of the copyrighted recording of the song. These licenses are typically very expensive. Small indie filmmakers can expect to spend several thousand dollars (US) to get the licenses for a single song for a limited release. For studio produced movies, the fees are often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The whole process take a long time and there is little chance of getting a positive response from everyone involved (the whole process is outlined here:

There are copyright clearance agencies that can be hired to perform this task (for a fee).

7. Sites for free background music

I have a list of sites here: Free Background Music Sites

Related Articles

~by longzijun


Return to Writing

305 thoughts on “Music, Copyright & Youtube: Fair Use, Public Domain & DMCA

  1. I want to make a video for youtube and use audio from Tupac in the 1980’s, its not music just audio of him talking. Where do I stand on copyright ? can I claim the copyright when the video is finished and monetise the video ?

    • Hi Lee,

      The issue isn’t very clear.

      The original audio recording would be protected by copyright. You could make an argument that your use constitutes fair use (e.g., maybe you are making a video that educates people on the history of rap and the Tupac clip is just one example), but publishing it on YouTube and monetizing it would weaken those claims. Strictly speaking, you would be breaking copyright.

      Of course, what about all those songs that use sampled vocals from movies, new broadcasts, ethnic music recordings or old documentaries? A common practice seems to be sample it, release it and then worry about copyright later (and only if challenged).

      Almost all of rap music is based on this approach. The justification used is that the artist is creating something entirely new.

      To sum up, you can ‘claim’ copyright, but the person who recorded the original recording could challenge that claim and sue.

  2. Please pardon this potentially dumb question: say I purchased music that is copyright-free everywhere but the EU. Does that mean YouTube won’t allow a video using that music to play on domains from the EU, or does it mean that YouTube will take down the video entirely? Thanks!

    • Hi, what a strange restriction (what do the terms of use say exactly?).

      In copyright cases, YouTube doesn’t decide anything. If there is a Content ID match, they either pass the information onto the copyright owners for them to decide or (more commonly) just follow the instructions already given to them by the copyright owners.

      Therefore, one can never predict what will happen. It’s unlikely that your video would be taken down. And if it is, you should be able to successfully appeal it (so hang on to any evidence like the receipt and the terms of use). I don’t think the video would get taken down, but if you’ve been with YouTube for a while, you should know that there are no guarantees.

      There is a chance that the video will be blocked in certain countries, especially if the music is in YouTube’s Content ID match system.

      There is a good chance that nothing at all will happen.

      I don’t know if the copyright holder would be able to monetize your video (they would have the right to do this for views coming from EU, but I doubt YouTube gives copyright owners this option), and I don’t know if having content that is ‘mostly’ copyright-free would affect your own monetization abilities.

  3. Hi, I am an online music teacher who would like to post on YouTube music tutorials demonstrating how to play pop songs. Is this considered fair use? Thanks for your great article!

    • Hi Justin, That is a grey area. And there are different shades of grey.

      Light grey (stronger claim to fair use)
      The videos are not monetized, you don’t play the song all the way through and you give lots of explanations regarding things like fingering, phrasing and strumming techniques. The argument against fair use here would be that by teaching the song like this to a worldwide audience, you are depriving the composer of earnings from sheet music sales. However, I don’t think this is a strong counter-argument.

      Dark grey (weaker claim to fair use)
      The videos are monetized and you mainly just play the song all the way through while the camera focuses on the fingers on the keyboard. This would be more like a cover version (and cover versions do not not fall under fair use).
      It’s a good idea for a channel, but you will get Content ID matches and you will have to choose whether or not to dispute them. Your case for fair use will not be ironclad, and even if you are in the light grey area, many copyright owners will automatically reject your initial appeal.

      To conclude, I think it’s worth starting such a channel, but you will have to be prepared for some frustrations and annoyances.

      • Would it strengthen the fair use case if I include a link in my video comments to where they can buy the MP3 on iTunes or Amazon?

        • That would be a nice courtesy to the composer, but does not really do a lot to strengthen fair use claims (there’s no criteria related to promotion). The best thing would be to beef up the teaching aspect.

  4. What’s the rule on posting existing YouTube videos on a blog, if the purpose is solely to demo the artist’s work and each posting prominently features an Amazon affiliate Buy link, please? I’d love to do each posting like a music show, with an hour’s worth of tracks per week and each track accompanied by strong encouragement to buy the song or album. I won’t be uploading any videos myself, and I don’t mind at all if they’re monetized by the company. Does this sound as if it would be legal and acceptable? Thank you :-)

    • It seems to be ‘unacceptable,’
      The problem is with the use of affiliate links on the website, which would go against YouTube’s Terms of Service section 4D:

      “You agree not to use the Service for any of the following commercial uses unless you obtain YouTube’s prior written approval:..the sale of advertising, sponsorships, or promotions on any page of an ad-enabled blog or website containing Content delivered via the Service, unless other material not obtained from YouTube appears on the same page and is of sufficient value to be the basis for such sales.” (

      If you are looking for a way around this restriction, one idea would be to focus on that last part. If you did a review of each song or album, that might be enough to meet the condition of ‘other material of sufficient value’.

      Or you can just drop the ‘affiliate’ part. Of course, that means you won’t make money, but you didn’t say that making money was one of your purposes. If you just want to promote the artist, you can.just use a normal link.

  5. Hi … I got a YouTube Copyright Claim On My YouTube Video ? What Dows This Mean ? Is There Any Problem With That ?

  6. Hi … I Got a YouTube Copyright Claim On My YouTube Video From Sony Pictures Movies & Shows … What Does This Mean ? Is There Any Problem With That ?

    • It means Sony is saying you used some of their material in your video. Did you create all the material in that video yourself, or did you use footage from a TV show, movie or game?

  7. Hello and Thank you putting this well-written, very informative piece out here.
    We recently posted a video to YouTube and it has, unexpectedly, drawn a lot of attention. It was recorded as part of a Charity/Respecting Giving Act, as one of the steps involved in participating. Music was added to the video after it was recorded and prior to sharing via YouTube. We are Very new to using YouTube.
    Initially, the blanket “Fair Use” argument was used, as suggested to us by others, to allow for the Video to be viewable on Mobile Devices. After that, the video was viewable for approx 3 weeks on all Devices. Then, it stopped being viewable on Mobile again. And, the wording next to the video in “Video Manager” changed from “Disputed Third Party Matched Content” to “Acknowledged Third Party Content.” We have since read that it is the use of the music that is the problem.
    Although the music is a nice feature. It is not a necessary element of the video. Also, we are not in this for money making. We simply would like for the video to be viewable to as many people that would wish to watch it as possible. Primarily because it honors others that have sacrificed much.
    Do you know if utilizing the, “remove this song” option on YouTube will allow for the original audio of the recording to remain and be heard? And, if there is a sure way to “Un-do” the removal if it is not satisfactory in that regard?
    We have not received any emails/warnings on the matter from YouTube.

    Thank you in advance for any information/reply.

    • As far as I know the ‘remove-this-song’ function is still in the experimental stage. Sometimes it works in that way (keeping the non-song-audio) and sometimes it doesn’t (it might just completely mute that section of audio). There is an undo function, but there is a small chance that this may not work smoothly (e.g., long processing delays). (

      (BTW, that use of music wouldn’t fall under fair use. There is a lot of bad advice online–which is the reason I wrote this article)

  8. I Make This Video … That Video Just Some Of My Memories … I Didn’t Use Any Footage From TV Show Or Games …

  9. The music in your video is The March by Ky-Mani Marley. This was used in the soundtrack of Shottas which was a film produced in 2002 by Destination Films, which is a division of Sony Pictures. The songs was later released in an album by the artist, but it was first released via Sony, so there is a good chance they own the rights to the music.

    (BTW, any time you use a recording of a pop or rap song in a video without a licence or permission, you are infringing copyright)

  10. Hi!

    I have a question and I haven’t found the specific place to get an answer. I have a band and our albums are in a label which owns reproduction rights. I want to monetize my videos on Youtube but every song I upload from any album in that label appears to be copyrighted and I need to Recognize third party content to avoid the video being blocked. Do you know if there is anyway to inform Youtube that I’m the actual owner of the songs but that I allow a label to collect royalties for me?


    • In such cases, you should contact your label and ask them to ‘whitelist’ your channel. That means that any Content ID matches from videos on your channel are immediately cancelled by the label (or whoever is administering the rights on behalf of your label).

  11. I would like to make a YouTube slide show video for my non-profit classical music choir’s upcoming concert. We do not have a recording of our group singing it so I would like to use another group — for example, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I have purchased the music in my own iTunes account. We are not selling the video or CD’s, but we would like to inspire people to buy tickets to our concert. Please advise if this is permissible. If not, how do I go about obtaining permission??

    • That is not permissible. You would need to find the copyright owner of the recording and seek permission. Even if you did this, they would almost certainly not give permission as your video would seem to imply that it was your choir performing the song.Why not just record your group singing (but you would have to make sure the song and arrangement are in the public domain)?

      It doesn’t matter if you have purchased the CD. Also it doesn’t matter if you are not selling the music. It would still be copyright infringement.

  12. Are famous speeches uploaded on YouTube copyrighted? For example, King’s or Mandela’s speech. Can I use an excerpt from a famous speech and put it in an article/chapter of a book I intend to publish?

  13. Hi I want to make a gameplay video, if I get music from a public domain website that allows me to use it as long as I mention the artist name or website, is it safe to use? Also the game maker is sledgehammer, are they LetsPlay friendly?

  14. Hello. I appreciate the thorough article you’ve written. I just created a piece which I guess is a derivative work: I combined a classical piano work (by Debussy but in the public domain) with my own cover/arrangement of John Legend’s “All of Me” (not the entire song, but about two verses are in melodic form as well as the chorus but all are in a different transposed key than the original). So I made a mashup piano solo (but could also be a cover and arrangement). I just want to post it on Soundcloud, yet am unsure which type of license(s) to get or what proper permissions. I also plan to make more of these mashups, which I guess, the classical works would be in the public domain but it’s being cleared for my arrangements/covers of the recent songs I’m not sure how to get the right liscenses/ok to not infringe on copyright. I really hope you can answer my question as I read I’m probably sampling, (even if it’s not from the orig. Recording) which makes things complicated. Having said all that, would my chances of getting the go ahead good? I really want to go with this idea but want to know how to do it (legally) correctly. Thanks.

    • You would just need a ‘mechanical licence’ from whoever administers the copyright to the music compositions (on behalf of the songwriters). The only difficult part is tracking down who administers the copyright. You can visit the websites of ascap, bmi and sesac and see if they are administering the copyright. Mechanical licenses are relatively easy to get. The more difficult thing would come if you start creating videos–then, you would also need a sychronization license.

  15. Thanks so much for this invaluable information. Question: do I need permission to use a portion of a song on a website homepage? Thanks

  16. Great article. Thank you very much for the information. I had a question off topic but dealing with copyright law: is it legal for me to create a ringtone using my voice of a famous movie line (i.e. I’ll be back!! By Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Terminator. Or “Say hello to my little friend!!! By Al Pacino in Scarface.) Thanks in advance.

    • Probably not legal. Here is a detailed article. The main point is that movie quotes have been given trademark/copyright protection in court. (The scripts are copyrighted and some quotes may already be trademarked). However, the writer suggests courts need to be more careful not to give too much protection. If you were thinking about selling your ringtones, you would definitely want to consult an attorney first.

      A lot would depend on (1) the quote (it would be easier to protect a quote specific to that movie–like the Scarface quote–than something like ‘I’ll be back”), (2) what you are doing with the quote, (3) whether or not is has been trademarked and (4) how active the copyright/trademark owner is in protecting their intellectual property:

  17. Regarding 5.5, “The copyright holders can change their minds at any time and issue a DMCA takedown notice on a video they had previously approved for monetization…” Does this hold true when a copyright claim is disputed for any reason, or only when the dispute is filed under “fair use” and accepted as such by the copyright holder?

    I have had multiple copyright claims against videos that use songs that I had specifically chosen because they are part of the public domain (both the original creations and the specific recordings), and have filed a dispute in each case citing the “public domain” option. I had assumed that once the copyright claim falls off, the video was in the clear. Is this not the case, and I should be prepared to repeat this scenario in the future?

    • There is a flaw in YouTube’s system. A company can falsely/wrongly claim copyright on a song, release the claim after a dispute is filed (usually just by letting the 30 day period for reinstating the claim expire). Then, the SAME company CAN simply claim the SAME song again, forcing the video maker to repeat the dispute process. So, yeah, you will need to be prepared for that.

  18. Hi, I’m a music online teacher. In my videos would like to show some music giants, personalities just to complement some of my sessions, for example, if I’m telling my students to listen to some musician, (an old one for example), I would like to put a nice photo of him, even an excerpt of a video of him playing live, just for teaching purposes. Would it be illegal? Thank’s in advance

    • It is infringing copyright, so it is a matter of whether it is fair use or not.

      One factor would be how many people could access it: If it was a closed system like an intranet or if access was password-protected so that only students in the course could view it , you would have a lot better claim.

      Another (more important) factor would be how the clips are integrated into the teaching. if you have a twenty minute lecture and in the middle there are a few short clips and you are sometimes talking over the music, that would be much more likely to be considered fair use. If it is just “hey, check this out”, that would not be very likely to be considered fair use.

      YouTube would likely pick on the songs with the Content ID system, though, so you would need to prepared to regularly file appeals. I had thought about doing a film techniques analysis channel, but ran into copyright problems with all the clips. I am confident the videos would fall under fair use, but I didn’t feel like going through the appeals process with every video, so I stopped after two videos.

  19. Longzijun, Thank’s for your response, you have clarified my how it works. I saw your videos, they are amazing!!!!!, it’s a pitty that somebody doesn’t allow to make that kind of work, you are so didactical and clear. However, what I have in mind is to do all the material by my own and then demonstrate it with a 5 second clip (aprox) of a Master…just like a complement of all what I said. I don’t think that it becomes a problem but I will see what happens…

    Thank’s a lot!

  20. This is brilliant work. Thank you Longzijun :)..

    I’m about to release a House track, where i use some very old movie clips ( talk )
    But I want to do this right – and i’m happy to pay for royalties to owner. But it’s seem’s very difficult
    to found the owner.. This is the track ( Working Copy )

    I like to add some depth into my creations, such as in this track . We the Humans are often being spin and manipulated or even worse – and all we really want is the truth.. so yes Honesty is a part of me hehe. That’s why it’s important for me to of course Clear my work and appreciate the creators work by following the rules and laws and just showing normal respect and appreciation ..

    But I need help hehe.. How can i solve this ?

    Thank you in advance..

    • Movie dialogue is protected by copyright, so you would be mainly be seeking permission from film studios (each film studio has someone in charge of clearances like that). I did a quick search online before replying and the consensus is that if you use vocal samples in your work without clearance, not much happens unless your song becomes a hit. Then you may find the copyright holder comes for a piece of your pie.

      If you have a lot of clearance-less samples, that might also discourage record labels from taking you on,

      If you want to be really safe, you can use public domain recordings:

      I went to check out your tunes, but Soundcloud isn’t working for me at the moment.

  21. You have probably answered this already somewhere, but I cannot find it.
    Am I in trouble if I upload a video to Youtube of me driving around while music is being played over the car radio?
    I’ve uploaded couple of videos of exactly that, and now I got a message saying that video has been blocked in some countries because…
    “…Your video might contain copyrighted content.
    Copyright owners can choose to block YouTube videos that contain their content…”.

    Thanks in advance for your answer

    • Yeah, that would be infringing copyright (even though the music may have unintentionally recorded). You can think of it like those scenes in the movies where the car radio is playing. The producers would certainly have had to secure the necessary licenses.

  22. Hi @Longzijun. If we make an original animated product video to promote a software product and the protagonist character in the video sings parts of copyrighted songs to himself (two songs, probably one line/chorus from each for a few seconds) is that a breach of copyright? Closest things I can see above are cover versions. Thanks for the advice.

    • Yeah, It would, which is probably why that concept is not commonly used. If you weren’t making a commercial, you could argue fair use as you are using such small parts of the original songs. As it would be a commercial, the songwriters may not be too thrilled to be cut out of the action.

  23. Hi! Sorry if the question is already answered in the long post!
    I decided to start a youtube channel with anime music violin covers. From this post I understood that it’s illegal, right? But there are many anime music cover channels on youtube. Do they all have license or are they illegal? I would like to know, if I can start it without getting in trouble.

    • Almost all would not have licences, Almost all will have their videos identified by YouTube’s Content ID match system. In most cases, the music is monetized by the copyright holders. A small percentage would run into more serious problems from time to time (like getting their videos taken down. If you are doing a cover channel, I would recommend reading the whole article carefully so that you know what to expect. I am not against cover channels. I help my students run a channel for their original songs and covers. All the covers have been identified and are being monetized by the copyright holders.

  24. Hi, thanks for all the info. I’m producing a web-series, and in one episode, we want to have the characters perform a song at karaoke. Since this is a very specific situation, I’m not sure what type of license we need. Would it be helpful if we recorded at a live karaoke bar (with permission from the musicians of course) as opposed to using a prerecorded backing track? Thanks!

    • Assuming you are doing a video, if you use an existing recording, you would need a Master Use license for the recording and a Synchronization license for the composition. If you do the live band (with permission), you would only need the Synchronization license. It’s important to remember that the composition itself is copyrighted.

  25. So the worst, that can happen is, that my videos can be taken down? If most of them don’t have license and they are still not taken down, then I can just try. Even if they take down my videos, I wouldn’t lose anything in my life :D

  26. I have 2 situations I would like to ask about – one of which I think I know the answer already.

    1. Creating and monetising the video, where copyrighted material (in my case 2-3 sec song/sound audio clip) would be used to highlight the humour of the situation. The video would have entertaining character where a lot of pop cultural references (jokes and assumptions) would be used to create the humour, however the usage of the copyrighted material would be limited to that short audio.

    2. As above, but instead of using an actual recording of the clip, self a’capella performance of that 2-3 sec clip.

    It might be important to mention – unlike the guy asking about the spoken ringtones, this would be about 2-3 sec contribution to about 20-30 min entertaining performance.

    • The answer is the same for both situations. You are claiming ‘fair use’ and you have a reasonably good claim, but the copyright holder(s) may disagree and if they do, the only way to settle the matter would be in court. Your claim is weak in a couple of areas: your purpose (entertainment/profit), the purpose of the original material (entertainment), the transformation of purpose (not much). And it is strong in other areas: (using only a small amount of the original material, adding a lot of your own material). The only difference in the second case is that there are fewer copyright holders involved (only the songwriters and not the people who own the copyright for the recording). Personally, I would say your proposed use use would fall under fair use for both cases (and I am pretty conservative in my views on that), but I am not the one who can decide such things.

  27. I have a question,
    I got a copyright claim against a video I shot of my son skiing at a competition this winter. There is music playing (in the background) of the video coming from the announcers tent while the announcer is speaking over my sons run. Since this music is not important to my sons run but the announcing is AND there is nothing I dan do to remove it from the video since I had no control over what is happening at the event and I am just a victim of the announcers shuffle settings, is their claim valid since this was on a mountain, the announcer was 1000 feet away from me and I’m guessing the event producers must have paid someone to play the music??

    • Their claim is valid. Even if the event organizers paid a fee for the music that was only for music use during that event and would not cover broadcast rights. It is a really common problem (but it still infringes copyright law).

  28. Hello There,

    Let me introduce myself, I’m Limanol Adams, an upcoming independent artist.

    I’m working to have my debut probably this year, but mean while, I will like to prepare a promocional cover of a song, All of my by John Legend, but first I want to know if there a Mechanical Licensing or something else that I need, so that, I can play my own version of that song or upload it my youtube channel, as en example?


    Limanol Adams

    • A mechanical license only applies to audio (if you wanted to sell the cover on iTunes, for example, you would need that). For a cover version on video, you need a synchronization license.

  29. Hi,

    I have a viseo of a live preformance of a mainstream band. Is it okay for me to post it on Youtube without any trouble?

  30. With regards to a copyright holder, would they look differently upon a brand or company compared to an individual if there is some sort of dispute?

    For example, if a brand / company produced content that was debatably transformative, and an individual did exactly the same thing, which would be more likely to cause offence? It would be great to get your opinion when taking monitory gain out of the equation. Say this hypothetical brand / company was not doing it to make money but rather a reputation for producing this transformative content.

    • “company was not doing it to make money but rather a reputation.” But what is the purpose of building a reputation in this way? This is related to branding, isn’t it? As such, the new content would be considered as part of a marketing strategy, so you are not taking monetary gain out of the picture at all; the end goal of enhancing the reputation of the company is to ‘make more money’.

      A commercial purpose doesn’t necessarily rule out fair use, but it does weaken the claim. Therefore, to answer your first question: yes, copyright holders may would look differently at that.

      • Great answer! Could I also ask, what would your opinion be on companies like Watch Mojo? A Youtube Channel that releases top ten lists and reviews. For example. one of them is “Top ten speeches form movies” and another might be “Top ten best movies quotes”. They would take footage from the original movie and edit it.

        • I was watching one of their videos last night (top 10 bass players). To me, that would definitely fall under fair use (even if they are profiting), and I am very conservative in what I consider fair use. However, I am sure they have to deal with multiple and repeated copyright claims on almost every video they upload.

          If you are planning such a channel, you would just have to factor that in. How much time are you willing to spend on disputes, appeals and counter-notifications? You would probably also want an attorney that you can use when the copyright owners don’t immediately back down.

          I was considering doing a channel about film techniques, but decided I didn’t want to spend so much time on copyright issues, so I shelved it. Here is one of the videos:

  31. Hi Stephen! Wow, what a robust and valuable post – I’m glad you covered this topic in such depth, as you’ve answered most of my questions about incorporating music into YouTube videos. I did have two remaining questions, though : (1) As far as the resources listed in “7. Where can I get music to use as background music?” are concerned, is it necessary to contact a musician who has released music under a Creative Commons License to notify them you intend to use their work? (2) In your opinion, what are the best resources if wanting to quickly sort music by type of Creative Commons License under which it was released?

    Thanks for all the helpful info!

  32. Hi! I have a question… I am planning on recording my own CD using Karaoke songs that I have purchased on itunes. My question is once the CD is made will I be able to sell it for my own profit? Or are there copy right laws that prohibit this?

    • Sure there are. 1) The song itself is protected by copyright. You would need to get a mechanical license. This is quite straightforward. 2) The recording is also protected by copyright. unless permission is given to use the recording in this way (selling your own cover versions using THAT recording), you are definitely infringing copyright. if you want to sell your covers, you should get in touch with musicians and make your own backing tracks.

      • Thank you for your reply. So even using the Karaoke versions to make the CD is against copy right laws even if I do not plan on selling them for profit correct?

        • Yeah. You can solve the ‘composition’ copyright problem (and even sell the songs) by getting a mechanical license (these are no problem). To solve the recording copyright problem, you can either find a guitarist or pianist to work with OR look for Karaoke tracks where the producer allows for such uses (I suppose these should be called ‘backing tracks’).

  33. Hi,
    I’m interested in making a parody using the instrumentals of thrift shop. Would i be able to use only the instrumentals without breaking copyright? or would i have to get rights for the use of the instrumentals.

    • Of course it would be best to get permission to use the song AND the instrumentals. The next best thing would be to create your own instrumental version. Are you sure you would want to do a parody of Thrift Shop. Thrift Shop is already a kind of parody of bling-obsessed rap songs. Parodies of parodies never work well.

  34. Hi I produce music and I got a ton of samples like drums and bass lines and wobbles off YouTube and people leave downloads to get those samples if I use them in my songs is that copyright?

    • You can assume the samples are protected by copyright unless stated otherwise (e.g., “feel free to use my bass line”, “published under Creative Commons”). You might want to get into the habit of documenting what you use (e..g, take screen shots of the permission). You are unlikely to run into any problem, but what happens if you get lucky and get a hit song? Can you guarantee the guy who played the bass line you used won’t sue you?

  35. I was wondering if I were to use a remixed song from another YouTube channel would that be considered copyright? For example the song take ü there by jack ü was remixed by zeds dead but its on a channel with a standard license

  36. I have a video of my sisters graduation. Youtube has blocked this video because the songs the live orchestra/band was playing. Can this be disputed?

  37. Just like to inquire about my video. i got some video clip when we visit beach ..
    where walking on the beach then i take video w/ my family but during that time there was also a music playing coming from the hotel which they sing along and it was got recorded also at my video coz there an event a “wedding”. there music was so loud that is it around the public places.

    do i need to get license for the music? coz someone from the ad agency contact me and wanted to use my video for ad campaign. im not sure if they are going to use the whole video(video and and background sound/music) or just the footage only w/ no sound

    • The songs are still protected by the copyright. It doesn’t matter if the music was recorded accidentally from the surroundings. IN any case, the ad agency should know that, so It should be their problem. If the ad agency wants to use the the music, they should be the ones licensing the music (as well as paying you for your video) .

  38. Hi there! I really find your post very informative. Thank you for sharing this.

    Anyhow, my question might have been answered already, but I’d like to ask if I could sing (a cappella) 2 lines from a copyrighted song and include it in my podcast. What if the reason is because the song relates to the podcast topic?

    i.e. Singing 2 lines from Alicia Key’s “Empire State of Mind” because the podcast topic is “NYC”.

    Thank you in advance!

    • So are you asking if that falls under fair use ? Only a court case could provide a definitive answer. You are operating in a grey area, so a lot would depend on how you use the song.

      Tying the song more directly to the content would help a lot (e.g., “Homages to NYC frequently pop up in music from (singing) New York New York to (singing the 2 lines from the song”). The use of the song snippet could be considered educational.

      In contrast, starting the podcast with the song to catch the listener’s attention wouldn’t have the same effect. I doubt that could be considered fair use.

      A big TV production company would likely license the song just to be safe.

  39. Hi again. Thank you very much for answering question.

    To be more specific, I am planning to make a 10 minute podcast about random things.
    Let’s say the podcast is about “love and relationships”, and in the middle of the recording I decided to sing (a capella) 2 lines from “All of me” by John Legend because it relates to the topic.

    Would that be considered fair use? Or would i be in trouble?

    Again, thank you for being extremely helpful. It really means a lot!

    • That doesn’t sound like fair use to me (you are not analyzing/critiquing music; nor is the music necessary to illustrate what you are talking about. It is just a kind of ‘mood or interest enhancer’

  40. Silly question. If the venue has bmi, ascap and sesac licenses that means they are legal for live music, dj and dead music (karaoke). The dj has to legally purchase all the music he plays. The kj has to legally purchase all the music she plays. Does the band have to legally purchase the sheet music that they play? If not, why not?

    • You seem to be mixing up two different things. The venue is responsible for the performance license. The DJ is responsible for legally acquiring the tracks. You seem to be trying to merge two independent things: purchasing the tracks (DJ) and having the right to play music in public (venue).

      So yeah, if you want to do things according to the law, the band should not download or copy sheet music illegally. That is the band’s responsibility (not the venue’s). Of course, they do not have to purchase the sheet music; many bands play by ear. At the same time, they shouldn’t violate copyright.

      • But, how do bands legally play music that they didn’t write? Wouldn’t that be the same as a dj that downloads music illegally?

        • Sorry, you are comparing apples to oranges. You should be comparing a dj downloading songs illegally to the band downloading sheet music illegally and then learning the song from the sheet music. It is the illegal acquisition of the copyrighted material that is the problem.

          Once both the dj and the band get to the venue, the venue should be paying a licensing fee for the right to host live music performances.

  41. excuse me, what if I upload on my blog only the link to the official youtube artist’s page? thans for replying!

    • No problem…you can also embed their YouTube videos on your page (If people don’t want you to embed, there is a ‘no embed’ function that they can choose. Therefore, if the uploader does not choose that function, it is a kind of implied permission).

  42. I video recorded a live performance of a band, with permission but not written, they don’t own the copyright of their songs, I want to release the video to fans using a Limited Manufacture license from PRS (UK) which covers publishing rights can the band prevent this

  43. Thanks for that. I had enquired with the PRS and they said LM license should be OK.

    Trawling the internet I found a comment that said If I had the bands permission as the producer of the video the video element would be my copyright? As I said I didn’t have written permission but think I can establish that I was filming with permission through email correspondence where the filming was discussed and the band initially offered to buy the footage, at one point commenting it was very good, but now saying it’s sub standard.

    They were a “Big” band in the 80s/90s but not sure if they are currently on a label will check this out, but in all the correspondence only their management was mentioned and they never really became involved.

    Had an email from one band member saying they wouldn’t endorse it but i didn’t expect it or want them to, and also that they couldn’t stop me. Then received an email from their media representative saying “please” do not proceed?

    The end result was aimed mainly for the fans and I wouldn’t envisage any large sums of money being made I did however offer the band what I thought was a “fair return” on any videos that were sold.

    Again thanks for the prompt reply.


  44. If a video was shot in a public place can any of the persons in the video claim to own a copy right simply because they appear in it?

  45. I want to upload a video that is a biography of a band, and I want to use one of their songs in the background. The band is relatively unknown and not signed to a big label. The song plays for a long time after I finish talking about them. I’ve tried to contact the band through Youtube, but they haven’t responded. I don’t monetize my videos so that isn’t an issue. I also don’t care if there is a copyright claim, but I want to avoid the video getting taken down. How much risk is there?

    • Try contacting them through another method (YouTube isn’t a great way to contact people). You should be able to track down an email somewhere. The risk is relatively small as most copyright holders choose to monetize videos rather than take them down, but that small risk is still there. You seem to know that already, though.

  46. Hello and thank you for all of your helpful insight.

    My question is… I’m a professional picture editor and have edited many live music performance DVDs for top bands over the years. Since I was hired by the artist to edit and master these performances for air and artist DVD’s… does this allow me permission to use promotional clips for potential clients. Can I put a reel of these clips on Vimeo if I use a private account for potential client viewing only? Can I alter a clip maintaining the live music track while over cutting some of the artist with other material?

    Thank you for your response.

    • “Does this allow me permission to use promotional clips for potential clients.”

      No. Not unless you were given that right in a contract or were given permission.

      “Can I put a reel of these clips on Vimeo if I use a private account for potential client viewing only? Can I alter a clip maintaining the live music track while over cutting some of the artist with other material?”
      All these things ‘can’ be done, but are you asking if you have legal rights to do that? The answer to that would be that you are infringing on copyright.

      If you want to be safe, you can ask for permission.

      To save trouble in future, why not start putting those kinds of permission requests into your contracts?

  47. HI there Longzijun.

    What if I’m vlogging and the music comes on and i upload to youtube? i see many you tubers doing this and their videos are still monetized.

    • you mean the music just suddenly appear in the background? That is still copyright infringement…It could be that the Content ID match system didn’t pick it up because it is in the background (however, it might still be picked up later) or it could be that some of those videos are being monetized by the copyright owners of the music. Copyright rules still apply no matter whether the music in the video was put there on purpose or accidentally.

  48. Is it okay if I can upload a remix of the Versace instrumental with my rap on it without permission and if it goes viral would I get money?

  49. Is it okay if I can UPLOAD A remix of the Versace instrumental with my rap on it without permission and if it goes viral would I get money or not?

    • 1) it is infringing copyright, if that is what you are asking 2) Who knows? You could get money or the copyright holder of the original track could decide to monetize it instead or if your song got big enough I suppose the original copyright holder could decide to sue you. Anything could happen.

  50. I was considering making custom monopoly boards like the one you find in the stores with different themes. Do these games have licenses? Could I sell custom game boards without copyright infringement? For example if I made a monopoly game with all of my families faces and all original images.

  51. After many hours of search there seems to be nobody in my situation. I record local bands & tribute bands as a hobby free of charge. I usually upload them to YouTube and post them on the band(s) facebooks and twitters so they can have promo material. Recently an artist had youtube remove every single song I posted from a tribute band. So, I am not the one covering the song, nor is the video their work, is there any hope to counter notice that type of copyright takedown? None of us profit from it so I found that to be a bit mean on their part.

    • It is mean, but they do have the right to do this if they are the copyright owner of the music composition (that is, if the artist wrote the song). You would need to get either permission from them or negotiate a synchronization license with them. This is explained in the section of cover versions.

  52. Hello,

    I don’t think this has quite been covered but:
    I’m putting together a video for my friends. It’s a silly video of the story of how we all met and in the video I have some music from a rock band placed here and there. It’s basically background music for some scenes, and each song has been cut up and rearranged to make them shorter so it’s not the complete song. I’m not selling this or putting it on YouTube or online at all for that matter. It’s just for us to enjoy and even to give to other friends if they want a copy. Is that bad?

    • it is infringing copyright, but it would be difficult to see you getting in trouble for showing a video to a few friends. In the past, we used to make mix-tapes on audio cassette tapes for our friends. That was copyright infringement as well, but the scale was so small that no one really cared.

      If it is posted online, however, that is a different story.

  53. Hi,I am working on my career as a professional wrestler. They would like to assign me a song for my theme/entrance, but i would like to use a song by a certain artist. Do I have to pay that artist in order to use his song or no? ,Thank you.

    • for video…sure you do

      for live events…you would probably have to consult an attorney for a definitive answer. Generally, venues (bars, arenas, stadiums) are responsible for paying music licensing fees (i.e., you wouldn’t pay, the venue owner would), but these are for non-dramatic uses of the song. If you are interpreting pro-wrestling as a sport, it would be non-dramatic use.

      However, pro-wrestling could also be interpreted as a kind of entertainment with dramatic elements (e.g., the music is being used to develop a character in performance). In that interpretation, you would be responsible for obtaining the right to use the song.

      Because there are different possible interpretations, you would need to get expert legal advice for a clearer answer.

      In any case, the ‘they’ in your question, should be the people dealing with these kinds of legal issues, not the wrestlers.

  54. So, basically, I can’t upload a video of me and my friend singing Bright at our 7th grade talent show? I can’t upload covers of songs to jump start my dream of becoming a singer and I can’t play guitar and sing a song and upload a video of it? What can I do?

    • There are plenty of cover version performers on YouTube. You just have to be aware of what you are doing. I sometimes help my students post cover versions and original songs on YouTube ( All of the cover version videos have been monetized by the copyright holder, but are still online and viewable. However, I also have a video of a student talent show that had the audio muted (because of a cover version).

      If you want your videos to be 100% safe, you need to have the necessary rights for everything in your video (that basically means getting permission or writing your own songs).

  55. Stephen, thanks for the excellent post and answers to the many questions.

    Can I get clarification on a couple points? (1a) If I write and play my own cover music to a song, then I would only need a synchronization license to upload a video of me singing and performing the song, correct? Or would I also need a mechanical license? (1b) If I click on the YouTube box that says,
    “Monetize my video. This is my cover of a song written by somebody else. Learn more,”
    does that essentially give me the sync and/or mechanical license?

    (2a) If, instead of writing and playing my own cover music, I obtain a Master Use license from a Karaoke/backing tracks producer, then I still need the sync and/or mechanical license from the publisher, correct? (2b) Does clicking the YouTube box referenced above give me those licenses? Or do I need something else?

    (3) Same as (2), but instead of showing me singing, my video shows a puppet singing the cover song. (Here’s an example: Does this qualify my video as fair-use parody so that I don’t have to split the monetization with the music publishers?

    Thanks so much!!

    • 1a) Just the sync license
      1b) No, sync licenses must be negotiated with the publisher
      2a) yeah
      2b) No, YouTube does have an arrangement with some publishers to allow for covers, but the publishers can change their terms at any time. Most publishers are accepting of covers, but even if they monetize your video, it does not mean that they are agreeing that you have the legal right to upload it.
      3) Parodies are tricky: They usually involve some changes to the lyrics and/or music, parodies are not protected by fair use provisions in all jurisdictions, fair use is a defense against copyright infringement claims not a kind of license

  56. I am trying to make a Farewell Slide Show. I have it all together with 3 different songs I purchased via I-Tunes. When I tried to load it to Facebook, it sent me a message saying some of the content could fall into Copyright Laws. I am a little stubborn and really want to use the songs I chose. I have clicked on the different links you posted above trying to find the songs that can be used without going against the Copyright Laws, but can not find the songs I want there. Any other suggestions?

  57. Hi, longzijun! I have a blog and I have included an mp3 player that only plays my cover versions of popular songs through the years. The reader can select the song(s) they want to listen to. There is no provision for them to be downloaded. I recorded them on Audacity after purchasing the backing tracks from Karaoke Version… of the biggest purveyors of karaoke music in the world. Do I need a Performance License, a Mechanical License or is this considered “Fair Use”? Right now, my blog is not monetized and is simply providing valuable content to my readers. I was also wondering if I did use my webcam to record me singing cover songs if I would need similar licenses for You Tube.

    • a) yeah, you would need a mechanical and streaming license for the composition like this one
      b) to use the a recording of the karaoke backing in this way, you would need written permission from Karaoke version (
      c) If you are doing a youtube video, you would need a synchronization licence from the music publisher and written authorization from Karoake Version
      If you look at the video in ny article about cover songs, you will see the cover song artist in the video strongly suggests that you produce your own backing tracks (i.e., record with a friend).

  58. We have recorded an original song about a spy but the words refer to all the films and phrases used in his previous films is this ok.? If it’s not ok what are the consequences if we release it. I guess we are ok if we become a limited company or change the words best regards Pete

    • Audio recordings from the movie would be protected by copyright and the use of them would be similar to using samples in rap (all kinds of copytight issues there).

      But what if you are just using the phrases from the script in the lyrics.
      The script is copyrighted so phrases from the script are also protected by copyright to a certain extent. “I’ll be back” is a common short phrase so couldn’t be copyrighted, but what about “The name is Bond, James Bond”?.

      That line might also be trademarked.

      Fictional characcters, like James Bond, can also be trademarked:

      What you are doing sounds like fair use to me, but if you want to be safe you should check with an attorney because the issue is complex and you are dealing with both copyright law and trademark law .

      Here is an old James Bond song for you (I wonder how they worked out the copyright for that):


  59. hi longzijun,

    I think recently to make my own site for music.
    I consider to make guitar pedals from old schematics found here in the net and to make some modifications over them . Can u tell me if u know, how much of the schematics can be the same or if u know can u suggest any copyright document in this domain to read. And am i under any low if i put exactly the same schematic (without any modification) on my site like a DIY educational explanation texts, images etc ?

    I think also to make some covers of songs which already exists. I was thinking about ” OK if i make these cover videos and post them in youtube, the content id service will 99% sure to catch them.OK but if i monetize them ( the songs which i play are not massively popular or i think like that) so the probability to be rejected by the copyright holder is small, but there is always a chance. So if i make a channel in youtube and upload monetized covers i must be OK right ?
    I am not sure enough but if i monetize the covers – 45% of the revenues go for Youtube, and the other 55% are distributed between me and the copyright owners right ?

    And one last question : Can i put these cover songs from you-tube in my web site. Hypothetically i already monetized them and you-tube and the copy-owners profit from them. But i am considering to put a donation button in my site. Because my main activity will be around the DIY guitar pedals etc. I mean i think to post for free the PCB schematics and layouts, and parts of the production process. So if i put a donation button, i think that i am safe right ?


    • a) The schematics may be protected by copyright/patents. You would have to check with the person responsible for the original schematics
      b) You may be misunderstanding three things about cover versions on YouTube. The first is that if the cong is picked up by the Content ID system, you have no choice as to what happens. It is the copyright holder (i.e., the songwriter) that decides what to do. The second thing is that in almost all cases, the copyright holder will take 100% of the ad revenue. Co-monetization is only one option available to copyright holders–the other options are: they completely monetize it, they mute it, they block it or they take it down. Shared monetization is quite rare. The second thing is that the copyright holders can change their mind at any time. If they allow for co-monetization today, they still have the right to take the video down tomorrow.
      c) The donation button idea sounds dodgy–because you are asking for money for things you may not own the copyright to. You can upload the covers to iTunes and instead of asking people to donate, you can ask people to buy the covers there. Then, a portion of the revenue would go to the songwriter (when uploading to YouTube you would get a mechanical license allowing for the sales of cover versions).

  60. Hi it’ s me again,
    I forgot to ask.
    Watch this video :

    It’s a cover of a song. In my current pc i have adblocker so probably i cant see any ads, but i have older pc with no adblocker and i there i can’t see any ads also. So i am almost sure that the system content id must have found this dude playing the exact same piece. So What’s the case here ?

    Thanks again,

    • there are ads on that video when I play it. Anyway, if someone-either the uploader or a copyright holder– monetizes a video, there is no guarantee ads will appear (there is more advertising space than advertisers). If you don’t see ads, it could be that advertisers are simply not interested in putting ads on that video for viewers in your country.

  61. Hey thanks for your fast reaction and your comprehensive explanation.
    Anyway i still wonder about monetization.
    So if i monetize my own videos ( with no copyright broken) than i am gonna split my revenue with youtube ?
    If i monetize covers in youtube i will earn nothing ?
    I will centralize my work over building these guitar devices, so probably i m not very interested in selling covers, but thanks for the idea, you clear a lot of my misunderstandings.

    • You can use the covers simply to show off the pedals. If you start earning money from the covers, that would be a bonus.

      a) yes, split with YouTube
      b) if it is picked up by the Content ID system, the copyright owner decides what to do: probably they get everything, but maybe you share with the copyright owner or maybe (very rarely!) your video is blocked, muted or taken down . All the covers I have uploaded, except for one, have been picked up by Content ID and are monetized by the copyright holders.

  62. Hi,
    I like some movie soundtracks plus the movies also. I just want to make a video clip from a movie scenes and also from the related soundtrack/music. Do I have get permission to do that?

    Thanks. :)

    • The movies are copyrighted, the compositions are copyrighted and the music recordings are copyrighted, so you would be infringing all three copyrights. If you upload it to Youube, probably at least one of the copyright holders would take over monetization for your video, but they can also choose to do nothing, mute your video, block it or have it taken down. It doesn’t sound like what you are doing would fall under fair use as you are not really transforming the purpose or adding anything of your own.

  63. Hi – I have just started a new business – “I Do Marryoke”. I will be making videos of newly weds and their guests performing to a song of their choice and then edit it all together to make a pop style video using the original song as the soundtrack. I contacted PRS Music Licensing and can get a Limited Online Music Licence to allow me to play any music on my website or in a video on my website legally (there are certain limitations – total length of music and only up to a certain amount of views/hits etc). I can also get a Limited Manufacture Music Licence to allow me to provide the couple with a certain amount of copies on DVD for their personal use. Both of these seem to cover my needs and they are both affordable for a small business, so it’s all good so far… However – I need to first upload the Marryoke videos to YouTube or Vimeo to be able to embed them into my website. I am then having copyright problems with some songs being used because the music in the video is being picked up by the copyright software on those hosting sites. Do you know if there any way around this? Thank you!

    • I have checked the terms of service of the licence you mentioned. There seems to be a problem concerning video. You can refer to this clause: 3.2 For the avoidance of doubt, this Agreement does not grant any “synchronisation licence” (to the extent that such a licence may be required by the Licensee) covering the initial fixation of Repertoire Works in combination with visual images to create and produce Audio-Visual Material. You would still need to get a synchronization license in ADDITION to the licence you obtained from PRS.

      To avoid the YouTube problem, you can upload the video directly to your server and embed that (and not use YouTube)

  64. So it is illegal to post a YouTube video of you making a video reading a song of a popular song from a lyrics site and post the lyrics on the video for people to see?

  65. So what happens when I use a song I downloaded legally from an artist in a video and a label pops a copyright claim on said video? The artist was offering free downloads on the condition that you follow them on various social media sites. Does that qualify as fair use? It’s not like WMG would make any money on the sale of the song anyway, if it’s already free…

    Oh, and I should mention that I specifically state in the video’s description that I do not own the song, nor do I claim to have created it, and I specify the artist and provide a download link.

    • I think you won’t like these responses much. it seems you have a lot of misunderstandings about how copyright works..

      Downloading a song legally is one thing. Creating a video from that song is a compeltely different thng. Purchasing a song does not give you the right to broadcast it or republish it or even use it in a video. To do that you need a synchonization license and a master use license.

      It does not qualify as fair use.

      Copright is not only used to make sure artists earn money; it can also be used to ensure they have some control over how their work is used. For example, maybe someone may not want to see his heartfelt breakup song being used in a gameplay video. Axxording to copyright law, it is his right not to allow for its use.

      Stating you don’town something in the video descripton is helpful in terms of promoting the artist and is a good courtesy, but it means nothing it legal terms. It is the legal equivalent of shoplifting something and then as you are leaving the store saying, “Oh, by the way, this isn’t mine.”


  66. OK so ive had a youtube channel for a while and now i want to start making videos. My videos are based off of me playing video games like madden 16 or call of duty etc etc. Say theres a song i want to use that is not on itunes but i see is on youtube from many different users. It isnt a popular song the begin with. the song for reference is Space jam by Illstrtd , yes thats how its spelled. I want to be able to use music like that and also instrumentals by famous artists like meek mill for example. now for the first reference i gave of space jam, how do all of the people who posted that song on youtube get in contact with the person who created the song? I really dont understand the copyright rules especially when all im doing is commentating on my gameplay and playing the game when i just want to have low volume background music. Music that is electronic and not necessarily lyrical. PLease help me

    • why not use music that people give you the right to use? For electronic stuff you can use the songs of teknoaxe (

      If you insist on using the songs of commercial artists, then you should try to get permission. It doesn’t matter how low it is in the background. It doesn’t matter if there are lyrics.

      How do you get in contact? Contact them via email, YouTube, Facebook. etc. If they are with a record label, contact that company.

      You can find lots of copyrighted music on YouTube that is posted without permission. What often happens in such cases is the music is picked up by YouTube’s content ID match system. The copyright owner is given a choice of what to do. Usually they take over monetization for the video and place ads on it, but they can also mute it, block, do nothing or take it down.If you include copyrghted songs without permission, there is some risk involved. It is up to you whether you are willing to accept that risk.

  67. Hey there,

    I read your whole article and man u are awesome. This question might have been repeated but :-)
    I see lots of youtube videos of people making lyrics video of old as well as new songs. Some of these have millions of views, so my question is , are they doing illegal? Or they are not monetizing it so its okey ?

    • It is infringing copyright (the recording and composition are both protected by copyright).

      In most cases, the song will be picked up by the Content ID system and the copyright holder(s) take over all monetization for the video. However, they can also decide to do nothing or to have the video blocked, muted or taken down. There used to be a list of songs that are likely to be monetized in YouTube’s ad-supported music feature, but it was important to note that the copyright holders of the songs on the list can do whatever they want (nothing, monetize, take down, block or mute)

  68. The only part that is copyrightable is the “Tune and the Lyrics” The composition and the instruments used are not copyrightable, unless there is a solo lead guitar part in the song that somebody wrote.

  69. I am going to rephrase my comment. The Melody and Lyrics are the only copyrightable elements in a song. The Chord structure is not! I spoke to the copyright office on this matter. They told me that even if you use the same exact chord arrangement but you must have a different melody And different lyrics. (Entirely), but you have to be careful because it is easy to slip something that sounds like that other song in there. But, Yeah! It is only the melody that the creator makes and the lyrics; Not the chord progression.

      • The new arrangement would be protected by copyright, assuming it is very different from the he original.For example, I just helped a girl called Kate record her piano only arrangement of I Vow to Thee My Country. The song is public domain because it is so old, so anyone can make their own arrangement or sing the original choral arrangement. However, now Kate would own copyright of her piano arrangement and performance.

    • Yes, you cannot copyright a chord progression. A LOT of songs use the same or similar progressions. Here in amusing demonstration (a bit of foul language though :) :

      However, it is incorrect to say the melody and lyrics are the only elements protected by copyright. An example would be a modern brass band arrangement of a public domain work by J.S. Bach. The new arrangement would be protected by copyright because it would be considered a kind of derivative work even though the melody is the same.

      Another example would be sampling in rap songs.

  70. I am a video editor. And i want to add lyrics on video songs and then add to youtube can that be allowed or it would be copyrighted and i also want to moneterize them.

    • The song is protected by copyright. The likely outcome is that the video would be monetized by the copyright owners. However, they may also decide to take the video down. If you are looking to monetize videos, this is definitely not a good type of video to do.

  71. Hi,
    This site answered most questions that I had been asking for a long time yet am still to get an answer for this: SO please Help.
    1.A music has been created on a website out of the free loops/instruments etc (on the website) mixed together and some voice overs and other instruments and elements available. Now, the web says that anything created by the user is his/her individual work and can be sold, however they can’t be sold in isolation.
    2.Now, when this particular music is uploaded to Youtube., there is a brief portion that’s getting an issue and it’s getting monetized by a claimant. What should be the plan of ACTION?
    3.Should this be a case, because if this is there open for use on the website, should another person claim?
    4. Should it be disputed then? What should be the points of dispute , please help as to what to write in the description.
    5.Can you suggest any such web where one can create music out of existing loops without these problems?


    • Dispute the claim, say they are two different songs that for a brief period use the same set of loops, provide a link to the licensing terms of the loops used and quote the part that says they may be used.

      If the dispute is rejected, you can appeal it.

      Yes, the other person is wrong to have entered a loop-based song in the Content ID Match system.

      To avoid having this problem, the trick is to build songs that are layered from loops found from different places and avoid having just a single loop/clip playing at one time.

  72. Can I use instrumental of different song by altering them in pith speed etc. Will I be able to post it in YouTube with my recorded voice

    • No…it is still infringing copyright…and messing up the original song in the process. You really need to change the speed drastically to avoid Content ID matches. If the song is found, the copyright owner may be more inclined to have your video taken down because you are messing up his/her original vision for the song. For the other part, you are talking about cover versions. It is better to find someone who can play piano or guitar and create the song together.

  73. Hello there,

    I I’m wondering if my Art form is “legal”. I take audio from videos across YouTube and compile it into one piece and add my own sounds to the mix to make it into a deal of its own.

    Here is the link to one where I have not added any effects to the sound clips other then one clip from the movie Ben Hur starting at 9:09 but is hardly recognizable

    Here is another one where I have a few audio samples but I edited them. All but one is recognizable because of heavy editing but what about the beginning of a song I sampled at the beginning of my piece.
    My piece:
    Original song that I sampled (Can’t find original source):


    • Nowhere. First, as mentioned in the article, the music composition will be copyrighted. Second, the recording is protected by copyright as soon as it is recorded.

      You can get around the 2nd, by looking for free karaoke that you have permission to use (there is quite a lot on YouTube). Free to use is not the same as ‘no copyright’.

      You can not get around the first kind of copyright–the one for the musical composition–unless you are working with songs old enough to be in the public domain (e.g., written before the 1920s)

  74. The Korean choir will sing a song in English (sheet music was purchased). In order to see the words that may not be clearly understood we want to enter lyrics in caption form on the screen (the choir is being shown on the screen and the caption is on the bottom of the screen) during the joint worship (churches gathering together for Christmas worship). Do we need permission from the publisher?

  75. Hi Thanks so much for all the info U have. a question regarding live recordings I upload lots of old videos from live tv performances ( Mtv concerts, Letterman show etc) also music news clips mostly from 1990s Mtv and lastly some recent concerts shot from the audience Very rarely will those be blocked and rarer yet removed. What is the reason for that ? (Yes Im asking why they allow me to do this) Recently I did have about 5 blocked from Mtv concerts and news clips that I had up for years. Have laws changed recently on any of these types of videos? Thanks for any new info!

    • What is the reason why it is allowed?
      It is generally more sensible to just take over monetization of the video and make a little money and get more exposure. The only problem is you may occasionally upload a video by someone who is less sensible.

      Why the recent blocks?
      Laws haven’t changed. It could possibly something to do with YouTube Red (music companies may be tightening up control over their assets and getting rid of competing videos in order to promote their official channels). It is also possible that MTV recently submitted more stuff to the Content ID system. My bet would be on the latter.

      Just because a video has been there for half a decade, it doesn’t mean it is will never run into problems.

  76. Hi, this may be a dumb question or already answered but I basically just want to set up a channel and use existing videos of bands I like. Not to make any money just have loads of songs I like in one place. Is this ok to do?

    • It is infringing copyright. Technically it is possible to do it, but it is likely your channel would get shut down sooner or later.

      Unless you have permissions or licenses in place, for most of the videos, what will happen is that the content owner will put ads on your video. That’s not so bad. However, the more videos you post, the greater the chance of getting copyright strikes from copyright owners who want more control over their music.

      • Thanks for your reply. I thought this would be the case but it’s mainly all old punk stuff anyway so I’m hoping they don’t mind!

  77. Hi,

    I created a channel on Youtube where I have videos talking about different rock albums. Like say a video talking about The Beatles’ Abby Road. The video talks about the band, the album cover, and of course the music, I talk about each song on the album giving facts about what some of the lyrics mean, interesting facts about the music portion, and just some neat stories about the making of the songs. I have the song playing in the background, which I guess is infringing on copyright but it’s because I’m talking about the song that’s playing. I don’t play the whole song (except one song that is literally 23 seconds long). I basically piece parts of each song together which shortens the song. I’m hoping since it’s commentary and informative and non profit, I’d be okay, plus I don’t think that telling information about the album would affect the sales of that album, but since naturally I’m using copyrighted music, I’ve had videos muted because of it. What can I do to avoid Youtube muting or blocking my videos?

    • Nothing.Basically, you are in a reactive position. The copyright holder can still mute and block you, and then you file a dispute (and possibly an appeal for a rejected dispute and possibly a DMCA counter-notification) using your fair use argument. If you follow the process to the end, you will be forcing them to choose between giving up their claim or taking you to court.

      As you know, your fair use case is strong, so that would deter any sensible company from suing you.However, sometimes people are not sensible!

      I started working on a film techniques channel along the same lines as what you are doing. I decided not to go though with it because I didn’t want the hassle of fighting over every video.

      To sum up…you can go for it, but you just need to bear in mind that you will be dealing with copyright issues regularly.

      • What would some techniques be to continue making these videos and get the least amount of claims as possible? I know everyone says that it’s a gray area on what is too much, so naturally the less I use the better. The safest option would be to have no audio at all. Unfortunately, then viewers wouldn’t know what I’m talking about unless I have the music accompany it. So, do I only include audio for when I’m talking about a specific line or if I mention the guitar solo, have part of the guitar solo play and again only have music for those specific parts? I’d like to be able to play at least enough of the song for people to get a feel for the songs, make them think “Hey I like this song, I’m going to go on iTunes and buy it” or “Next time I’m at Walmart, I need to make sure the pick that album up.” Although, I know that the more I play the more likely I’d have claims against me. Is it possible to play small portions of the song and be fine, 20 seconds? 30 seconds?

        Something that I’ve rolled around in my head was slowing the music down about 5% or so so Youtube wouldn’t recognize it. I don’t like this option because, it’s almost liking cheating and almost disrespecting the artist to alter the song that way.

        Would making my own website, where I don’t have to worry about Youtube, solve my problems on the videos? Or would that make my situation worse?

        Also, I doubt it, but is there any way to monetize the videos? I put a lot of hours into the videos, and would be nice for a little reward. If I can’t, I understand completely. After all, I don’t own the rights at all to the music. As long as the videos play, that’s the most important thing. Sorry for the long list of questions but as you see, I have a lot of them.

        • I would just go with it and accept the Content ID matches as a normal part of what you are doing.

          Monetizing the videos adds a for-profit purpose. That weakens fair use claims, but doesn’t entirely negate them (think of film review channels). I would get the channel well established first before monetizing it.


          As for the other stuff, maybe you are thinking too hard.

          20-30 seconds will likely still get picked up.

          Don’t change the pitch!
          5% wouldn’t be enough. And if the song did get Content IDed, it would be much more likely get taken down as artists tend to hate having their stuff messed around like that.

          Having your own website would solve some of the problems, but the good thing about YouTube is that copyright owners are usually quite happy to place ads on videos. Putting videos on your own page cuts them out of that ad revenue. They might get annoyed with that.

        • You say it’s alright to keep making the videos? That’s great news, because I really enjoy making them. Would it be alright to still make the website down the road just in case Youtube does block the videos, viewers would still be able to watch them, naturally Youtube can still have the videos that copyright holders don’t mind me using.

          I also have a video game let’s play channel, where I record myself playing a video game with my commentary on top of it. Most video game companies don’t mind those kinds of videos because it’s advertising their game and each person plays the game differently so each experience is different. Is it possible to monetize those videos? Naturally I don’t want to take away copyright again on what the game developers made, but I know some people get paid for that, I just want to make sure that’s alright.

          Thank you for all your answers, I certainly have learned a lot from you.

        • One’s right to monetize Lets Play videos depends on the developer. Many developers explicitly allow for monetization of videos on YouTube and some will allow it if certain conditions are met. Therefore, you need to check the Terms of Serve and/or related policies of the developer.

          it is always good to have a back up channel somewhere. I have a lot of stuff on Vimeo.

        • Thank you for answering my questions. You gave me the confidence to keep doing what I’m doing. I’ll let you know if I think of any more questions.

  78. Excellent work here! Very thorough. I was looking for answers on how to safely start a YouTube Channel for my blog and I think most of my questions have been answered. Now I feel more confident going forward.

    However, I was wondering if YouTube has a list of free song tracks that videomakers can legally use in their videos. If yes, how does it work?


    • I know for me YouTube suggests changing one of my songs to a list they have provided so they do have one. Unfortunately I don’t know how to get to it.

      Something you can try however, look for some royalty free music. I have good luck on Pretty much all they ask is to give him credit. I don’t know if you can monetize or not but they probably have that answer on their website. But any mood or feel you want they have plenty and its a free download.

      Good luck!

  79. Hi, Thank you so much for this amazing article !
    So I would like to make a “Lyrics on screen” of one of Drake’s songs and I want to sing along with it all over the actual SONG with my voice. I wonder if it would safe to upload it on youtube.

    • nope
      there is the copyright infringement of the song composition and the copyright infringement of the recording. You can check YouTube’s ad-supported library to see what is likely to happen if you use that song (but the copyright owner can take action other that what is indicated)

  80. For instance the koroake on YouTube for any song is putted by a person. And if I have to use that karaoke.I need to take legal permission of that person…but is I have to tale legal right from original song makers too..

  81. I have a singer song writer who would like me to put together a video clip together for three of her songs. What license do I require and how do I get it?

  82. Hey ….this is not really. About music….but I wanna ask…I am thinking of starting a subtitle website …
    But I have some quaries…
    1.if I take lyrics from net and make subtitles from it is it fair…legally
    2.and for instance I download a subtitle and edit it little..and I put that on my website…. It will be fair
    3 and does I have to take permission from song maker…..for. Making subtitles of their songs

    I know Above queries are quite silly….but I want to know all about it…so please help me…..counting on u bro….

    • 1. No 2. No 3. Yes (However, course there are plenty of lyrics sites. Most copyright owners don’t get upset if their lyrics or translations are posted online).

  83. What if you use a clip from a copyrighted song in a paid course?

    We create video courses training singers how to interpret and rearrange songs.

    We would play a clip (never the whole song) and provide commentary.

    The videos would only be available behind a paywall and not downloadable.

    If we needed a licence, what kind?

    Amazing post!!

    • You would need a sync license (for the composition) and–if you use the original recording–a master use license. it is possible that if you are using parts of the song, your use would fall within fair use. Therefore, I would suggest that you consult a copyright attorney to see if he/she thinks this is a viable option (there are arguments for and against). Usually, i can give a firmer opinion, but your case is in a really grey area, so you would want to seek an attorney for advice.

  84. Just wondering. If let’s say I’d like to use a sample which is non-musical (let’s say some rocket thruster or laser sounds) from an 80s Japanese cartoon, and run it through effects. Would this get someone in trouble with copyright laws?

  85. @longzijun that’s what I suspect too. Thank you for the reply. Your post is very informative. Great work!

  86. Lonzijun….I want to make a cover video of infinity by one direction……and for that I have to take legal authorization…..
    So I wanna know procedure for getting legal rights over the song lyrics….so I can use it for my cover video
    And I wish will answer my this query.
    .unlike my last post

  87. Can. U help me In getting synchronize license of infinity..I really need ur help

    Please see if u can help me

  88. Hello.
    I’m a certified English to Spanish translator and I’m interested in adapting popular songs from English into Spanish.

    What type of license do I need so I can post the adapted song in YouTube?

    My idea is to have a friend of mine, who is a musician, sing the adapted song into Spanish, then post a video in YouTube. We won’t make a video. It will only be my friends voice so that the audience will know how to sing the song into Spanish. By doing that I’m I also doing a cover?

    I appreciate your time.

  89. would i be breaking the law if i use a hit song on the background of a fashion video? like, showing off my look with the music on the background…

    • It is copyright infringement. Why would it be otherwise? (However, it is not the kind of breaking-the-law that ends up with police kicking down your door)

  90. Hi there, I’ve done a short documentary film about my mum suffering from Alzheimer’s…. right at the end she attempts to sing along with ‘we’ll meet again’ by Vera Lynn. Its the very last line of the song, which is playing (extremely quietly in the background, almost inaudible over mum). Mum doesn’t sing all the correct words, but you still get the harmony/tune. Any ideas on this one? I thank you. Regards, Ian.

    • If you are ever going to release the documentary commercially, you should probably get clearance. If it is strictly a non-commercial affair, a person singing a single line should be fine.

  91. Thanks for your feedback Longzijun. I was thinking of maybe entering film competitions with this documentary. Would this constitute commercial release?

    • Depends on the prizes on offer, but I don’t think it will be a problem (as it is just one line). Just check with the contest organizers. Some may be very fussy about copyright issues.

  92. Hi,

    I have a question. I have produced a track with my original composition and melodies but I only chopped off a phrase from another song and kept it on my track. I credited the artist whose vocal phrase i have taken. Will it still be copyright and would i have to remove the track??

  93. Wow I can’t believe this thread has been going for years! Nice work Longzijun! I am a video editor and I like to re-edit movies using different music, into 5-10 min “movie music videos.” I cut the films out of sequence to create new thoughts and concepts, but I don’t add any original footage. I purposely use only the footage that was in the movie out of respect to the filmmakers and I only make the videos 5-10 min, as to only show 10% or less of the film. So it’s the same movie, but recut with different audio, the meaning is totally changed. The movies and music are copyrighted, but… if I don’t sign up for YouTube’s adsense, and don’t make any money on it, would I still be in violation? If so, how does the YouTube channel (Movie Mistakes) allowed to show Hollywood movie clips? That’s all they do is show clips form major motion pictures. How is that different than what I’m doing? Here is their channel:
    And the very famous YouTube channel (AllTime10) have liberty to shows copyrighted movie clips. They have no ads and they have 1.3 Billion hits.

    Any thoughts would be most helpful. I just want to share my editing work. And I see other people’s channels doing it with Millions and even Billions of hits. I don’t even want that. I just want to share something cool.

    • What you are proposing is nothing like the examples you sent. Those two channels are doing commentaries. They use short clips and add their analysis–talking over the clips much of the time. This falls under fair use.

      You are just doing a movie/song mash-up. That would not fall under fair use. You are not really adding any commentary or criticism. You mention creating a another level of meaning through marrying the song to the music; this is a favorite argument of AMV creators, but it really doesn’t hold up. Otherwise, any filmmaker would be able to use any song for free (“the images change the meaning of the song!”).

      More importantly, if uploaded to YouTube, your video would be making any songs within it available for download worldwide (people do rip mp3s from YouTube videos), so there is no way that be fair use (unless you only used a few seconds of a song). The is why fan-made music videos (and AMVs) posted to YouTube do not fall under fair use. With the editing of images, at least there is a weak argument for fair use, but no such argument exists for the use of music in such situations.

      That said, you can still try uploading them. You will likely get copyright claims. You would just need to hope those weren’t strikes. However, if you are just keen on developing your editing, why not team up with a videomaker or shoot your own footage?

  94. Thank you for the information. I am actually a pro videomaker/editor and I’ve always avoided using copyrighted songs and footage- as I was taught in film school 15 years ago, long before YouTube existed. However, I’ve always had an interest in doing movie re-cuts (basically fan made music videos) just for fun, and I see copyrighted material being used all over YouTube and thought I would explore the legalities. Or explore if there is any way around it because well made tribute videos (movie/song mash ups with popular movies) should have a place somewhere online. Right? Making original material is what I’ve always done, but doing a few cool tribute videos is interesting because people have a frame of reference. It’s like when you play Dark Side of the Moon to The Wizard of Oz. That’s a simple example with no real editing, but coupling those two masterpieces changes the meaning and give an entirely new experience. There should be a place for that kind of stuff.

    It’s interesting because the commentary channels are re-editing popular movies and music to benefit financially, and they are mocking the original (Screen Junkies channel being the best example) I am only interested in paying tribute to the original, but somehow that’s not cool because there is no commentary? I understand the music dilemma of making the songs available for download worldwide, however, if someone wants to download a popular song from YouTube, there’s usually dozens of people who have uploaded any given popular song, usually with lame lyrics graphics on the screen. And some of them have millions of hits. What’s that all about? Does it just take YouTube a long time to take them all down? Why would YouTube allow them to have millions of hits if they are in violation? Doing a YouTube search for any popular song will show a list of these song lyric videos 100% of the time. No artistry, just blatant uploads of songs.

    I know you don’t have all the answers and I appreciate your honest advice. The rules make sense to me, but I also think that if Screen Junkies ( can get 1.3 Billion views on re editing Hollywood’s biggest movies as farce, then there should be room for serious tributes.

    • Regarding Screen Junkies, you can go back to the definition of fair use in US law: “the fair use of a copyrighted work …for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” Clearly their work falls within ‘commentary’ and ‘critique’. They are only showing brief clips of the film and commenting throughout. You may find the critique shallow, but it is nonetheless a critique.

      Mocking vs Tribute
      If you look at all the criteria for assessing whether or not something is fair use, there is absolutely nothing in there about positivity or negativity. It is totally irrelevant whether you are paying tribute or tearing something apart.

      It seems your issue is with the criteria used to evaluate fair use. You want things to be considered (positivity) that are simply not relevant under current statutes. Your efforts should probably be directed towards getting the statutes changed. Definitely copyright law is long overdue for an overhaul.

  95. Thanks Longzijun. I appreciate your quick responses and thorough answers to my questions. You are right, I don have an issue with the fair use criteria. I think I might make an effort to change that. Yes, it is overdue for an overhaul. It’s a completely different world now, than it was in 2009 even. There is so much media being shared and uploaded and so much noise and saturation that there should be room for all types of creative media. I feel if you’re not making money on a video you created using copyrighted songs or footage, you should be able to use it on a open market viewing platform such as YouTube no matter if it’s commentary, journalism, comedy or tribute. Do you know anything about Vimeo? Are they more lenient with their copyright claims?

    • “Do you know anything about Vimeo? Are they more lenient with their copyright claims?”
      It is not a quistion of leniency. It is the copyright holders that order videos taken down, not the video hosting services. YouTube’s rollout of the Content ID system was partially in respone to getting sued by Vicaom for a billion dollars (with other media companies waiting in the wings to issue their own lawsuits.

      Because YouTube has the viewership, copyright holders focus a lot more on YouTube. If Vimeo ever becomes very popular, they will have to implement a similar system (or get sued).

      in any case, you should have a presence on Vimeo anyways. At present, there is less chance of getting videos taken down or muted, but there is no guarantee about the future.Vimeo’s stated policy is as strict as YouTube’s.


      Regarding the free use of material, there are two problems with that:
      a) In some cases, that would simply involve making songs or other copyrighted material available for free download (as mentioned previously).
      b) Copyright isn’t just about money. It also serves to give creators some control over how their work is used. For example, for my own music, I explictly mention in the terms of use that the music may not be used in videos that promote hatred, violence or pornography. I have the right not to be associated with such things and would prefer to keep this right.

  96. Hello,
    I am thinking about to start a karaoke room for business in my village in Slovakia. At the youtube, vimeo, etc. video sites are a lot of covers with lyrics and karaoke versions of songs. Is it possible to use them online (simply play them as a source), and just turn on the microphone and sing during the playing? What kind of licence I should looking for?
    is there existing an online/cloud kind of service for karaoke business? Nowadays with current technology, it could be easy to make a service where the songs are played from a central server and serve all karaoke clients anywhere at the world. A single tablet you could be used as a songbook, lyrics, etc. purposes. only thing I would need is a display and audio hardware. At least this what I can imagine as ideal solution for my needs. :) Unfortunately I didn’t found anything like this, but maybe somebody here knows such a service.

  97. Hello I have a question for you as well. Can I copyright a Spanish Urban song(Spanish lyrics) in any American copyright company or I would have to find a company that works with Spanish songs only?

    • A song is copyrighted as soon as it is written and recorded. Formally registering it with the copyright office ( is good because it offers more protection. I am not sure that you mean about the ‘companies’.

      Are you thinking of record labels or publishers?

  98. Hello,
    Thank you so much for writing this very helpful article. I am a teenaged musician trying to reconnect with my passion for music, and for film scores in particular, but I’m afraid to play anything because of copyright issues. I have two questions for you:

    First, can I get in trouble for copyright infringement if I play a cover song at home for my own pleasure (e.g. playing the Game of Thrones theme on my guitar)?

    Also, do you think it is all right to record myself playing said cover song if I never plan to distribute the recording, post it on the internet, share it with friends, make money off of it, or use it in any way other than for my own private enjoyment?

    Thanks again for all the information you have provided. I’d love to be able to play my instruments again without fear of breaking the law.

    • Of course you can perform it at home.

      The only problem comes with distributing it or broadcasting it. If you want to do that, just re-read the section on covers.

  99. This is one of the, if not the best article I have seem on this topic, thank you. I have looked through the majority of the comments as well. I hope you can help me with possible solution.

    I am part of an outreach group we take pictures of our outings and then make it a video to share on the outreach pages, on facebook. We want to expand to other social media. I also have a website that I wanted to do an outreach page on it showing the videos.

    The woman who has put together the videos has used itune songs that she owns and so she thinks its ok. It is in background as about 8 -10 photos in it. It’s not whole song but She has posted to a private or closed facebook group page. It sounds like the fact that she purchased the itune does not matter from what I read here? Is some sort of license needed? She is also making this for other outreach events as well etc. Also if license is needed, how would we go about getting it.

    Also if it were to be posted on a website that also has a store. The videos are outreach not to make money just to show get together for events that are free.

    However one event is a retreat style which if someone signed up would pay. The video she did is pictures with song in background. What would be needed? and is it the same for other media like pinterest google plus etc?

    Thank you for your info and any help on how to do this in a way that is ok.

    • All those questions are answered in the article.

      Of course, buying something on iTunes does not give you the right to use it in a video and upload the video (it only gives you the right to own a copy and listen to it). The licences needed are sync and master use licenses. This is dealt with in the article. Yes, it is the same with other media. The part about the store and paid events is not relevant.

      To do it in in a way that is OK, you should be looking to use music that you have the permission to use. There is a lot of free-to-use music around the web.

    • Depends on what you mean by free. Some songs are simply free to download (and cannot be used in the way you propose). Some are free to use however you please. Some are free to use as long as you give an attribution. Some are free to use, but not to modify. You need to be more specific.

        • I understand what you want to do. As I said, it depends on what the uploader mean by ‘free’. If the music is simply free to download, you cannot do that. If the music is free to use in any way you please, then you can. You have to check out what the person uploading the music means by free. That guy hasn’t mentioned it in the video description, so you should contact him.

  100. Hi!

    just a quick question, im testing MMJ and created a quick music with it, and i’m trying to use it for a video on youtube, my problem is that it’s impossible to use the audio on youtube as you get a copyright claim right when you upload it to youtube…

    I wouldnt mind paying for the loops, but if I can’t use them, there’s no point.. How do we solve that problem?

    I understand MMJ is working on protecting their software, and that the loops might not even be claimed by them, but if they want to get people making music with their product, that’s something they need to check.. otherwise no one will use it..

    Any ideas? Thanks :)

    • I have no idea what MMJ is. Whatever it is, you should check their terms of service to see the copyright status of their loops (It is common, for example, for people using the Garage Band software to get Content ID matches for songs produced with their loops. Those matches can usually be disputed because all the users of the software are allowed to use music made from those loops in their songs without any restrictions).

  101. Hi there, not sure if my question has already been answered, but if I used short audio samples from various media (5 seconds of dialogue from a youtube video, a quote from a video game) and I used these for non-commercial use only on Soundcloud would that be okay? I wanted to have some samples on an album from my band but they would only be used on Soundcloud for free (No downloading or buying the song) and I would be providing links and credit to the creators. Thank you for the help.

    • It falls under sampling and would be generally be considered copyright infringement. These kinds of things get taken to court relatively frequently when there is something at stake (i.e., the song becomes popular and there is money to be gained). There is a good article on this here:

      It is relatively safe for an unknown act to use samples, but the problem is that you would also be hoping your songs never become successful enough to make suing you worthwhile!

      • Sorry for such a late response but thank you for the info! While it is disheartening that I can’t use the samples it is very good to know for the future. Thank you so much!

  102. Would instrumental remakes be considered fair use? I have a YouTube channel where I reproduce instrumentals completely from scratch of songs that I have been listening to a lot so people can use them for karaoke, covers, etc.

  103. Thanks for the article – I found it quite thorough. I do have one technical question, though. … I record classic poetry & stories on my YouTube channel, and sometimes I run into a work that I am interested in, but it will be copyright in the USA while public domain elsewhere. You wrote that “…At the moment, I am recording one of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s preludes (Op. 23 No. 6) and posting it to YouTube. The piece was published in 1903, so it is in the public domain in America. Rachmaninoff died on 28 March 1943, so that makes it in the public domain in Canada, but not in the EU….”

    How does one do this without getting a copyright strike?

    Thanks for any insight you can give.

    • To be safe, I would suggest following the copyright duration of (a) the country the work was published/copyrighted in, (b) The US (where YouTube is based) and c) your own country (where you are making use of the work).

      It is complicated. There is something called “rule of the shorter term”, but not all countries (including the US) follow it. (

      Therefore, whether you need to care about more than one country’s copyright duration also depends on where you live.

  104. Thanks for the article…….but I have a question. I want to make a video of Top 10 songs of Justin Bieber. I want to include 10 seconds of video and audio of each song in my video. Do I violate any rule? If yes, what can I do to make this video? ……..Thanks in advance!!!!

    • It is better to comment on them and explain why each one is considered good. You can refer to the Watchmojo channel on YouTube to see how this is done (you may still get copyright claims–Watchmojo’s channel–was even taken down once, but they were able to get it back). You can dispute these by claiming fair use. A simple mix of song excerpts would not be fair use. You need the commentary.

  105. Hi again……Sorry to bother you. KM TV making the same videos of songs. How they using the copyright content in their videos?

    • I don’t know; you would have to ask them (likely each videos is being monetized by one or more record label) The point is that simple compilations do not fall under fair use. That doesn’t mean such a channel can’t exist; it just means that it is very vulnerable to copyright claims and will likely not last for long. As they add more videos, they increase the risk. The channel you mentioned has been around a year. Let’s see if it is around for a few more.

  106. Hey I’m a music producer and I upload my beats on the internet free for none profit use only unless you purchase them and I was wondering how would I know if someone is making money off my beats without me knowing?

    • There is no easy way to do that. For YouTube, you could sign up with an MCN (which may comes with its own problems) and they can enter the songs into YouTube’s content ID system and identify which videos the songs are used in (and you can follow up from there). For other places on the web, you would have to find them yourself.

  107. Hi, thank you so much for the thorough information.
    You may have already been asked this question-
    I am wondering about using karaoke tracks for cover songs:
    For example- I recorded my rendition of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”- (written by Willie Nelson).
    Many YTs have covered the song using either an instrumental arrangement/acoustic version or with karaoke tracks.
    I used the karaoke track for the background. It is slightly different from her original track- as most karaoke tracks are. so this seems like a grey area.
    I filmed and edited a simple music video for the song as well- so with the hard work put into the project, of course i would like to post it.
    I realize the video can’t be monetized- is that correct? if so, that’s completely fine.
    But what can i do to avoid any possible issues with YT and what not?
    Thank you

    • Yes, it should not be monetized (you would need to use your own instrumental to be eligible for shared monetization). There is nothing you can do other than get permission of the songwriters and the producer of the karaoke track. Most cover artists just upload the video and hope for the best (it is very rare for a cover video to be taken down). If you get a valid claim for the composition, it should not be disputed.

  108. okay, wonderful. thank you.
    do you have advice about the best way to get permission from the songwriters/producers-
    and how to receive a valid claim for the composition?

    • For getting permission for compositions, there is a video on that at the end of section 4.2 of this article. For the producer, you just write to him/her. If you are any good (and the song is in the system), the copyright claim will come automatically as the melody will be recognized by YouTube’s Content ID system.

    • You mean karaoke videos of other people’s songs? You would need mechanical and synchronization licenses for that. Without the licences it would be illegal.

  109. Hello i would like to know if it’s copyright if a music arts abelm (however you spell it) is in the video with no sound or do i have to block out? very sorry if this is an obvious question but you can never be sure and thank you for answering if you do that is

  110. Ok here let me explain which i should have done beforehand so when i was doing my video i had Pandora on and it would go to a song that i didn’t like so i had to skip the song so the album cover was shown but no music and I’m not using it it for anything oh and i was recording it on my phone but i had an option to make it where no sound can be heard hopefully this helps and makes you less confused

    • That still isn’t vety clear!

      If it is just on the screen in the background while you are doing a vlog it should be OK. There is a certain allowance made for shooting video in natural locations (so if you are shooting in your room, you don’t need to hide up all your books and CDs).

      However, if you are just showing the album art on the screen and there is nothing else, there would be no purpose for that, so it wouldn’t be so good.

  111. Hi-Is it copyright infringement to share a video from a family event where there was music playing in the background?
    I was at a friend’s birthday party and I did a video with my cell phone with several clips documenting the party. There was a DJ playing music and the video has several clips with people dancing. All the clips are short (10-15 seconds), but near the end of the party everybody was dancing to a particular song. This last clip lasts 27 seconds. I was going to share it on social media for my friends and family to see, but the social media company did not publish the video because it “detected copyrighted material” (by the way, they got the name of the proprietor wrong). They gave me the option to publish anyway if I think it was an error…
    I am very concerned about it and I started looking for information about this (background music played at a party), but I could not find it anywhere, so far. I would like to know if it is ok or not to share with my friends the video from the party. Of course, I do not want to infringe anyone’s copyright, but I did not record the whole song, just the 27 seconds of everybody dancing the last song of the night-that is the longest clip with background music. I looked for the original song on the Internet and the track lasts almost 4 minutes.
    Thank you!

    • 27 second seems a bit long. Can you edit it? There can be exemptions for “accidentally” recorded music, but that would be subjective and would depend on things like the length of the audio clip, how clear the song is, how much control you have over the situation, how avoidable recording the music is and how important the music is to what is happening.

      It is a grey area. If you went to a nightclub and recorded the DJ mix, for example, that would be copyright infringement as it is clear you were intentionally trying to record the music. If you are walking down the street and a car passed by with the radio playing, that is much more likely to be exempted as you have no control over the situation and you are not actively trying to record the music. Your case seems more like the fomer (the intention was always to record the music; and the music is NOT something just appearing in the background.) Therefore, I would argue that it is indeed a kind of copyright infringement.

  112. Hi! I’m in a bit of a situation, I upload acapella covers on YouTube weekly, and have been since 2012 but recently they’ve been getting content IDs and copyright claims. I don’t know what to do because it seems like they are owning my voice. The more views I get on a video, the more this is happening. Can they do that? What do I do? It said I could dispute it but you said you can get it taken down that way as well, and that would suck. Just stuck I guess.

    • You realize the compositions are copyrighted, right? If you are getting claims for the composition, that is normal. All cover version channels will get them. If you are getting claims for the RECORDING, you can dispute those (mainly that is just caused by a false march). If you are getting claims for the COMPOSITION, you shouldn’t dispute those.

  113. I have a question regarding the use of a song in public domain and making a video of this song. I currently have purchased a copy or reprint of a song which is listed under public domain. Can I make a video of me playing this song on the violin exactly as it is written for commercial purposes? I intend to devise a play along series containing about 50 songs where I will include copies of all the reprints of the songs as well as all the videos I have made from the reprints. Students will then be able to see the music and then play along with me while watching the video. Is this legal? Should I make a few changes in the music sheets and play the new arrangement on the violin? Please help me with this clarification. The more I read about this topic, the more confused I become. Thanks.

    • The audio part is fine as long as the arrangement is the original arrangement or is also old enough to be in the public domain. If you are using a more contemporary arrangement, that may not be in the public domain. When you post performances of public domain works, it is quite common to get mistaken copyright claims. You will just need to deal with it.

      The visual part seems more problematic. If you have paid for the arrangement/copy, there might be some problem with posting screenshots of the actual score online or distributing a scan of the score online. In such cases, you better contact the publisher and request their permission. Therefore, I would recommend that you stick with freely available original scores. You should read this page in detail:

  114. Hi, I want to use certain clips from a movie and dub them with my own voice and make funny parody, will there be any copyright issues? and can I monetize them?

    • Maybe. It is possibly fair use, but the argument is quite weak. Monetizing the videos would further weaken an already weak fair use argument. An example of a parody with strong fair use claims would be any of the ones done by hishe:

      If you are simply overdubbing clips, you are not bring very much to the table (and it is not really a full parody). Compare the amount of original work that you would be doing with the amount of work of a hishe video or a Weird Al Yankovic parody video.

      On the other, some film commentary channels will show lots of clips and just talk over the clips and that would be fair use. It seems that you could make similar fair use claims if your scripts were funny and insightful enough.

      In short, there is no clear answer. Personally, I wouldn’t feel confident at all if I were making such videos. You might want to speak to an attorney who specializes in copyright.

    • It is still borderline. You will be handling claims on almost every video.

      Interestingly, that channel also seem to have some connections. Mark Hamill is doing voices on their last one, and they are under this agency: . That means that if they ever run into copyright or monetization problems, they have people they can turn to in order to smooth things out.

      I was wondering why they were doing High School Musical this year (so outdated!), so looked at their video. It is a collaboration with a branch of Disney XD. I am not sure how they got so well connected, but it seems that for some of their newer videos they are not just getting permission, but they are collaborating actively with movie studios (or using footage from political speeches).

  115. Forgive me if this has been asked and answered. What if I have characters in a web series who occasionally break into song, singing a short phrase of music a capella. Specific songs examples are Stephen Sondheim’s “Old Friends” and ‘We’ll Never Have To Say Goodbye Again’ by England Dan & John Ford Coley. Do I need to get licensing for that?

    • There is no definite answer for that one. You would probably want to run that by an attorney who specializes in copyright and give more detail. Usually, I will give firmer advice, but your proposed use is in a completely grey area.

  116. you wrote a good post but you are way to biased. its clear what side you are on. try to show both side equally and not everything :”you are breaking the law” and thats ” copyright infringement”

    • What side would that be?
      I have videos that rely entirely on fair use, so I definitely am not opposed to fair use (

      I also help students run a music channel that is half cover versions, NONE of which have appropriate permissions or licenses (, I don’t do things by the book all the time, but it is better not to kid oneself and say something is fair use when really it is not.

      Some things are obviously fair use. Some things are not (a cover song is not). A lot of things are in between. For example, a lot of people believe that it is fair use if you upload a compilation of songs to YouTube as long as you state you are not making money from it and you credit the artists in the video description. That is simply copyright infringement (not a chance it is fair use), and it doesn’t do readers any favor if I say otherwise. In such cases, there isn’t another side, unless we are talking about fantasy.

      Exactly which situation have I gotten wrong? What have I said is copyright infringement that is not?

  117. I release a monthly podcast of various techno tracks. Every mix shows ‘copyrighted content’ so I am not allowed to monetize the content-not a problem-as I have never wanted that. My last mix however was blocked worldwide with ten tracks blocked. Its very frustrating-Im assuming there is no way around this apart contacting each owner and asking for permission? My previous mixes are still up. I purchased these tracks legally.

  118. I release a monthly podcast of various techno tracks. Every mix shows ‘copyrighted content’ so I am not allowed to monetize the content-not a problem-as I have never wanted that. My last mix however was blocked worldwide with ten tracks blocked. Its very frustrating-Im assuming there is no way around this apart contacting each owner and asking for permission? My previous mixes are still up. I purchased these tracks legally.

    • A YouTube podcast? Yes the assumption is correct. The legally bought statement is completely irrelevant as you have just bought the music to listen, not to broadcast worldwide, The problem is that you are using a video site. If you create an audio only podcast on your own website, you can get blanket licences ( For video, however, you have to contact the copyright owners.

      I wouldn’t get too attached to the channel. As the channel grows, the chances of copyright strikes also grows. There is only a small chance of getting a copyright strike, but when you start uploading hundreds of songs, the chances become larger. If you just want to have fun, go ahead; but if you are planning on building your channel up over several years, you will likely be disappointed.

      • The podcast is a mix. I upload that mix with some video footage of various techno memes (the memes arent the issue) and Ive built up a platform that long with my other platforms help promote me as a DJ. I guess I just have to rule out that as one method of promotion now.

  119. I had a video produced from an original song that I wrote. There are several places within the video where it shows the “Grinch” movie in the background on a TV screen. Do we have to somehow acknowledge that movie or get permission? There is no sound from the movie because sound is my song only.

  120. I recently sang an aria from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. I had a live pianist accompanying me; she is even briefly shown in the video of my performance. This performance was my final for a college course, and as such, free to the public. I haven’t officially posted my video because YouTube flagged it as being monetized by EMI Music Publishing, which claims to be the copyright owner. I disputed this and received a response that “the claimant has reviewed their claim and confirmed it was valid.” As far as I know, this was not a special arrangement of the music or anything. Is there something I’m missing? I’m nervous to appeal the rejected dispute.

    • Marriage of Figaro–the original arrangement–is for orchestra and voice, isn’t it? So, yes, a piano and voice arrangement is special. You should check the sheet music of the piano accompaniment and see who published it and when.

  121. Hi guys! One thing I need to know that there are many singers that do covers using original music with little bit changes. Do they also get copyright claims or strikes.
    Second thing if I create music like the original using piano or guitar or any other instrument then also can I get copyright claims or strikes? Please answer

    • You should scroll up and read the section on covers. Copyright claims on covers (for the composition) are usual. Most cover song channels will have claims on almost every video. Copyright strikes are possible but only very rarely happen. Instrumental covers are the same. The only difference is that it would be slightly less likely for you to get a claim (as it may not be matched to the song in YouTube’s Content ID system).

  122. Hey guys,
    I wanted to know that if i upload a video of the top 10/20 songs or movies consisting small-small clip of various songs/movies/tv shows and monetise the video,will it be called a illegal and striked?
    I am confused about it!
    Please reply!

    • It is copyright infringement (well actually 10-20 cases of copyright infringement per video). If you want to do that kind of video, you can follow the example of the Watchmojo channel and only use very short clips and add commentary over everything so that you have a strong fair use argument. Even that channel was terminated a couple of years ago, but they could deal with the copyright takedowns and get the channel back online as they had strong fair use claims.

  123. Hi guys,
    if i make a compilation of different clip of movies to make a whole new story.will it be striked on youtube?

  124. Hi, I have a new way for people to learn guitar easily and am making a video demonstrating how easy it is. I am not a rich guy and want to have music in the background that the student would play along with. I would be selling this commercially and putting it on facebook and you tube. Can I use public domain music without having to pay big bucks for the rights to use public domain music forbackground music they would play along with? thanks, Surg

    • Sure, but there are almost no public domain recordings of music available. If you record yourself playing the public domain composition, that would be no problem. There are lots of public domain compositions around (anything before 1923 is fair game), but would the students be interesting in such old songs?

      • Wow. what quick response-thank you-so in other words even if I have a group of musicians play songs that are not public domain the only way that can happen is to get the licenses to do so from the artists producers?

  125. Why don’t recording companies release Karaoke songs with the vocal tracks simply muted and sell them for $2, $5 or even $10 for a single song? People would flock to buy these original karaokes! These companies could make 10X than a usual single song that sells for a dollar and that is a much higher ROI than any other model in music. This way, the song is the same original without the vocals unlike a recomposed karaoke that is not original or the original song from which the vocals are removed (sometimes traces of vocals persist when there is reverb and other FX in these type of karaoke songs).

  126. I produce a karaoke track version of the famous song, pop, rock ect.. with lyric
    I put the music and lyric karaoke that i made in youtube.
    The question is :
    1. Can I monetize the video in youtube
    2. In future it’s possible youtube will take down or deleted my video

    Thankyou for your advise

    • 1. No, you cannot (unless you are invited for shared monetization by the copyright owner of the composition) because you don’t have commercial rights to the composition.
      2. You are infringing the copyright of the composition, so of course your video may be taken down at some point. However, USUALLY, the copyright owner will only monetize the video.

  127. Actually when someone doesn’t understand then its up to other users that they will assist,
    so here it happens.

  128. Hello! You provide a really excellent resource here, so many thanks for that.
    I teach English as a foreign language and I’ve started to build a online course on teaching platform outside of YouTube.
    I think my query falls into a commercial educational category, and all of the information I’ve found so far on fair use talks about non-profit educational use, and doesn’t really go into the commercial side.

    If I were to take short clips of celebrity interviews and snippets of conversations from YouTubers, could I use these under Fair Use in my online lesson plans/videos? (Factual, non creative works as I understand this could strengthen the case for fair use, or could movie clips be used too??).
    The idea would be to make them part of a new work using my own material, with commentary and analysis of their English, in order to teach people about natural speech and English expressions. (Not just filling the video with copyright material, but using it to back up a language point I want to make).
    The videos would either be on YouTube, with extra material on the course website for paying members, or all material would just be on the website, so not involving YouTube at all.

    My immediate thought was that this would be infringing copyright, but then I’ve come across YouTube channels that teach English through Friends episodes for example (maybe the YouTubers cannot monetize their channel and the money goes to the broadcasting company?), or other YouTube channels that teach self improvement/psychology tips (such as Charisma On Command) showing very short clips of celebrity interviews as a kind of lesson on human behaviour etc. These YouTubers definitely run a business based heavily on their YouTube videos so would this be a case of fair use, even though they’re profiting from it?

    With my examples of how I’d like to use the materials, in public education I would definitely consider this fair use – but when contrasted with a private language academy, does using materials in this way still constitute fair use, when that language academy’s main purpose is financial gain? In effect I would be running an online language academy, with paid members.
    So I’m really confused as to where I would stand with the use of copyright materials and if this could be considered fair use if my intention is to educate but also earn money from it,
    If you have any insights on this I’d be really grateful!
    Many thanks,

    • There is a fair-use argument there, but the for-profit nature of the enterprise work, in my opinion, weakens it. Also, as you are not really commenting on the film/video itself, but using it as a kind of shortcut (you could produce videos of natural conversations yourself), and that weakens the fair use argument even further.

      Putting things behind a paywall would definitely be a step too far.

  129. Thanks very much for your reply.
    Yes that makes sense, it’s clarified my doubts about the for-profit nature of the work and fair use in my example.

    I take your point about it being a kind of a shortcut. I think the word shortcut is quite helpful for me in weighing up the Fair Use argument. (If it’s not absolutely essential to use copyrighted material to illustrate your point then it’s always best to create original content, and especially if you want to profit from it – that’s my takeaway from all this).

    Following on from the shortcut point as a final question though if you don’t mind – those YouTubers I mentioned earlier who use copyrighted clips in their videos to educate people about psychology or human behaviour, do they have a strong case for Fair Use in your opinion, or would you consider they’re taking a kind of shortcut? They could film their own material, but it wouldn’t be as natural (or interesting??). I could argue similarly in the case of English language teaching – recording your own material always seems to impose some kind of bias on it, thus making it less natural/real, and as with the YouTube channel I mentioned, using celebrities gives weight to their argument, and people actually want to learn from charismatic, well known people and are actually entertained by them at the same time. Or are those YouTubers profiting unfairly from the use of celebrities/copyright material and taking a shortcut, I’m really unclear about this!!

    Their videos are accessible to all, so no paywall obviously, but in some cases they have millions of views and subscribers so I assume they profit indirectly from ads, (unless they don’t monetize the videos with the clips in) they certainly do however use these educational videos to grow their very successful business and products outside of YouTube. I find the profiting directly or indirectly part quite muddy/confusing.

    Anyway I was just really interested to hear your opinion on whether you think YouTubers using copyright material in this way have a strong case for Fair Use or not? That was my final question to you if you could shed any light on it.

    Many thanks again!

    • If they are doing videos on ‘psychology as presented in film’, that would likely be fair use. If they are doing videos on psychology in general and using examples from film just to make it more interesting, that would be much less likely to be fair use as the use of that specific is material is not actually necessary to the video. The film clips are used as more of a decorative element.

      Similarly, if you were analyzing a specific film’s script or its dialogue or even the accents of the actors, the use of the film clips would be necessary (and would likely fall under fair use). However, your main purpose seems to be to make language learning videos more attractive to viewers. That is not really a strong case for fair use (Your argument about bias doesn’t work because selecting clips would involve exactly the same bias, and your ‘charisma’ argument actually weakens your fair use claim).

      To try to profit from the videos, would, in my opinion, kill off the already weak argument.

      There are also the actors’ image rights to consider, these would also come into play if you are trying to profit from their performances.

  130. Super helpful, thanks very much again. I totally see what you mean about the decorative element and how my bias argument doesn’t actually work.
    I think I’m beginning to understand fair use much better thanks to you!

  131. Hello to all
    In this enigmatical forthwith, I proclivity you all
    Esteem your one’s nearest and friends

  132. happy day to you longzijun when my youtube video top 10 in film combined clips from hollywood movies would that fall under fairuse and high quality and complete details of where I took it, Used editing software and what’s on my channel. if I can hit the criteria for monetization.
    question: can i be approved even if i am from the philippines and not from the U.S.?

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