Do you know how to add copyrighted music to iMovie?

We’ve all been there: meticulously crafting a video project in iMovie, envisioning the perfect track to set the mood, only to hit a brick wall when it comes to copyright restrictions.

Can you relate? In today’s digital landscape, intertwining visuals with the right audio can elevate your creation to cinematic heights.

However, the maze of copyright laws can often dampen this artistic fusion. If you’ve ever pondered on how to legally add copyrighted song to your iMovie projects without getting into trouble, you’re in the right place.

In this guide, we’ll demystify the dos and don’ts of using copyrighted tracks, ensuring your masterpiece remains both compelling and compliant.

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What is iMovie Copyright on Youtube?

iMovie itself doesn’t have a separate copyright when it comes to YouTube. Instead, what you might be referring to is the use of copyrighted material within an iMovie project that is then uploaded to YouTube.

Here’s a breakdown of what you should know:

iMovie Soundtracks and Effects

Apple’s iMovie comes with built-in soundtracks and sound effects that users can incorporate into their projects.

As of the last update in September 2021, Apple allows users to use these built-in sounds in their videos, even for commercial purposes.

If you use only these tracks and effects, you shouldn’t run into copyright issues on YouTube.

Using Copyrighted Music in iMovie

If you add copyrighted song (not provided by iMovie) to your iMovie project and then upload the video to YouTube, you may face copyright claims, strikes, or takedowns on YouTube.

This is because the music industry often has strong protections in place and mechanisms (like YouTube’s Content ID system) to identify and manage copyrighted music used in YouTube videos.

Fair Use Consideration

Sometimes, the use of copyrighted material can be considered “fair use,” especially if it’s transformative, used for commentary, criticism, or educational purposes.

However, “fair use” is a complex legal doctrine that varies by country.

Even if you believe your use is “fair,” YouTube’s automated systems might still flag your content, and you’d need to dispute the claim.

YouTube’s Audio Library

If you’re looking for song to use in your iMovie projects that won’t run afoul of copyright rules on YouTube, consider using tracks from YouTube’s Audio Library.

It offers a collection of royalty-free music and sound effects that you can use in your videos without facing copyright issues.

Licensing and Permissions

If you want to use a specific copyrighted song in your iMovie project, you’ll need to obtain the necessary licenses or permissions from the copyright holders.

This could involve paying a licensing fee or getting written permission from the artist or record label.

Potential Consequences

If you violate copyright rules on YouTube, your video might be demonetized, muted, blocked, or even taken down.

Repeated violations can lead to your YouTube channel being terminated.

What is iMovie Music Copyright on Instagram?

When discussing iMovie song copyright on Instagram, we are essentially referring to the use of iMovie’s built-in soundtracks in videos that are then uploaded to Instagram.

Here’s what you need to know:

iMovie’s Built-in Soundtracks: Apple’s iMovie offers users a selection of built-in soundtracks and sound effects to enhance their video projects.

As of the last update in September 2021, Apple permits users to utilise these built-in tracks in their videos, including for commercial purposes.

When using only this library, you generally shouldn’t encounter copyright problems on platforms like Instagram.

Instagram’s Copyright Policy: Like other major platforms, Instagram has mechanisms to detect and manage the use of copyrighted content.

If copyrighted song or media is identified in a post or story, Instagram may mute or remove that media, send a notification to the user, or even take action against the user’s account.

Consideration of Use: Even if you believe you’re using music within your rights, automated systems can make mistakes.

For instance, while iMovie’s tracks are typically safe to use, it’s always possible for platforms to misidentify content.

If you believe your content was wrongly flagged on Instagram, you should appeal or dispute the claim via Instagram’s provided mechanisms.

Instagram’s Music Library: To provide users with a legitimate way to incorporate music into their Stories or posts, Instagram introduced its own song library.

When creating a Story, users can search for and add songs from this library, ensuring that their content complies with copyright regulations.

Always Double-Check: While iMovie’s built-in music should be safe for use on Instagram, if you’re considering adding any external tracks, always double-check the copyright status.

Using copyrighted songs without permission can lead to consequences on your Instagram account.

Alternative Song Sources: If you’re concerned about copyright but want more musical choices than what iMovie or Instagram offers, consider sourcing music from royalty-free platforms or libraries.

These sources provide song that can be safely used in projects, often with the only requirement being proper attribution.

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How to Add Copyrighted Music to iMovie?

If you wish to add copyrighted music to an iMovie project, it’s essential to understand that while the technical process is straightforward, there are legal considerations and potential ramifications of using copyrighted material without permission.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it, followed by crucial legal information:

Technical Steps to Add Music to iMovie:

  1. Obtain the Music File: Ensure you have the copyrighted song License copyright-cleared music. Source: file saved on your device, preferably in a format that’s compatible with iMovie (such as MP3 or AAC).
  2. Open iMovie: Launch the iMovie app on your Mac, iPad, or iPhone.
  3. Import Your Project or Start a New One: Select the project you’re working on or create a new one.
  4. Go to the Audio Section: Once inside the project, you’ll notice a series of icons/tabs at the top. Click on the “Audio” or “Music” icon (it might look like a musical note).
  5. Browse to ‘iTunes’, ‘GarageBand’, or ‘Imported’:
    • On a Mac, you can select music from various sources like iTunes, GarageBand, or imported tracks.
    • On an iPhone or iPad, you might see an option like “My Music” or something similar.
  6. Select Your Song: Browse and find the copyrighted music track you want to add. Click on it.
  7. Drag and Drop: Click, hold, and drag your song to the project timeline, positioning it where you want the music to play.
  8. Adjust As Needed: Once the music is in your project, you can adjust its length, position, volume, and even apply fade ins or fade outs.
  9. Finalise Your Project: Once satisfied with how the music integrates with your video, finalise your project and save or export it.

Legal Considerations:

  1. Rights & Permissions: Remember, owning a copy of a song doesn’t give you the rights to use it in your videos, especially if you plan to distribute, share, or monetize them. Always ensure you have appropriate permissions or licenses.
  2. Potential Consequences: If you distribute a video containing copyrighted music without permission, you risk facing legal consequences, including potential lawsuits or content takedowns on platforms like YouTube or Instagram.
  3. Alternative Sources: Consider using royalty-free or Creative Commons music if you can’t secure rights to copyrighted tracks. There are many platforms online that offer quality music specifically for video projects.


Incorporating copyrighted music into an iMovie project is a straightforward technical endeavor, but it comes layered with essential legal considerations.

While the allure of complementing visuals with a favorite track is strong, creators must prioritise respecting intellectual property rights.

Always remember that owning a music file doesn’t equate to having rights for its reuse, especially in publicly shared content.

To ensure both the integrity of your work and adherence to legal norms, always seek appropriate permissions or opt for royalty-free alternatives.

By navigating the junction of creativity and copyright responsibly, you safeguard your project’s longevity and your reputation as a content creator.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I legally use copyrighted music in my iMovie project?

While you can technically add any music to your iMovie project, using copyrighted music without proper licensing or permission is illegal, especially if you distribute or share the video.

Always ensure you have the necessary rights or licenses to use a copyrighted song in your video.

If I purchase a song on iTunes, can I use it in my iMovie video?

Purchasing a song on iTunes or any other platform gives you the right to listen to it personally but does not grant you the license to use it in videos, especially if you plan to share or monetize them.

You’d still need to obtain the appropriate licenses to use it in your video legally.

Will my video be taken down if I use copyrighted music and share it on platforms like YouTube?

Platforms like YouTube have automated content detection systems, such as Content ID, which can identify copyrighted music in videos.

If detected, your video could face various actions, ranging from demonetization and blocking in certain regions to complete removal. Repeated offenses can also jeopardise your channel.

How can I obtain a license to use a copyrighted song in my iMovie project?

To legally use a copyrighted song, you can reach out directly to the song’s copyright holder, which could be the artist, record label, or a music licensing company.

Depending on the song and its popularity, there might be a licensing fee.

Alternatively, consider platforms like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, which handle music rights and licensing.

Are there any alternatives to using copyrighted music in iMovie?

Yes, there are several sources for royalty-free or Creative Commons music online, specifically designed for video creators.

These platforms offer music tracks that can be used in projects with varying degrees of licensing freedoms. Some popular options include Epidemic Sound, Audiojungle, and Free Music Archive.