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How to Legally Use Copyrighted Music?

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Lokesh Pal

December 6, 2023

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How to Legally Use Copyrighted Music?

Do you know how to legally use copyrighted music in the media? Let us look into the blog to know more!

Music has the power to evoke emotions, tell stories, and set the mood for any occasion.

From the beats that pulse behind your favorite YouTube video to the melodies that enhance a business advertisement, the right track can transform content into a masterpiece.

But in the digital age, where sharing and remixing is second nature, it’s essential to understand that not all music can be freely used.

Copyright laws protect the creative rights of artists and composers, ensuring they get recognition and remuneration for their work.

But what does this mean for creators who wish to incorporate these tunes into their own projects?

Dive into the harmonious world of copyrighted music, as we unravel how to legally use those captivating tracks without hitting a sour note.

Join us on this melodic journey, and ensure your content remains in perfect harmony with the law.

How to Use Copyrighted Music on Youtube?

Navigating the use of copyrighted music on YouTube can seem daunting, but with a proper understanding of the rules and avenues available, it can be done legally and ethically. Let’s dive into the specifics.

1.Obtain Direct Permission from the Copyright Owner: The most straightforward way to use copyrighted music is by obtaining direct permission from the copyright holder, typically the artist or record label.

This will often involve paying a licensing fee. Once you have the license, you can use the song according to the agreement’s terms without worrying about copyright claims.

2. Purchase a License from a Music Licensing Company: There are various platforms like Epidemic Sound, Audiojungle, and PremiumBeat where you can buy licenses to songs for use in your YouTube videos.

The licensing fee varies depending on the track and intended use.

3. Use YouTube’s Audio Library: YouTube offers a library of free music and sound effects that are safe to use for any YouTube videos.

While the selection might not include popular hits, it’s a reliable resource for high-quality music without copyright concerns.

4. Utilise YouTube’s Content ID System: If you use copyrighted music without a license, YouTube’s Content ID system may automatically detect it.

This doesn’t always result in a strike on your channel. Often, the copyright holder will choose to monetise your video, meaning ads will appear, and revenue will go to the music’s copyright owner.

However, this also means you can’t earn ad revenue from that video.

5. Dispute False Copyright Claims (Carefully): If you believe you’ve received a copyright claim on your video in error (e.g., you have a valid license, or you believe the use falls under ‘Fair Use’), you can dispute the claim through YouTube’s built-in dispute process.

Be cautious, though; if your dispute isn’t valid, you risk receiving a copyright strike on your channel.

6. Consider ‘Fair Use’: ‘Fair Use’ is a doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission for purposes like criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

However, ‘Fair Use’ is complex and can be subjective. It doesn’t automatically protect you from copyright infringement claims, so if you believe your use of music qualifies as fair use, it may be wise to seek legal advice.

7. Always Credit the Artist: Even when you have the necessary permissions, it’s both respectful and often a requirement to credit the artist or copyright holder in your video description.

8. Stay Updated: Copyright rules and YouTube’s policies can change. Regularly review the platform’s terms of service, community guidelines, and copyright policies to ensure you stay compliant.

Are Instrumentals Copyrighted on Youtube?

Absolutely, instrumentals are subject to copyright just like any other form of creative expression.

When someone creates an original instrumental, it’s automatically copyrighted to the creator or rights holder.

Here’s what you need to know when considering using instrumentals on YouTube:

1. Automatic Copyright Protection: When a composer or producer creates an original instrumental, it’s immediately protected by copyright laws.

This means unauthorised use or distribution can result in copyright infringement.

2. YouTube’s Content ID System: If a copyrighted instrumental is uploaded to YouTube’s Content ID system by its owner, YouTube can detect when that instrumental is used in any video across the platform.

If a match is found, the video can be demonetised, blocked, or taken down, depending on the copyright owner’s preferences.

3. Licensing and Permission: To use copyrighted instrumentals legally, you’ll need to obtain the appropriate license or get direct permission from the rights holder.

Some creators and rights holders will allow use for free, while others will require a fee.

4. Royalty-Free and Licensed Music Platforms: There are platforms like Epidemic Sound, Audiojungle, and PremiumBeat that offer licenses for a wide range of instrumentals, often specifically for content creators.

Purchasing a license here provides legal protection against copyright claims for the use specified in the agreement.

5. ‘Free’ Doesn’t Always Mean ‘Free to Use’: Even if an instrumental is available for free download somewhere online, it doesn’t mean you have the rights to use it on YouTube without potential copyright consequences.

Always ensure you have the appropriate rights or permissions.

6. Create Your Own Instrumental: If you or someone you know can create original instrumentals, then this is a great way to have unique music for your videos without copyright worries.

Just ensure that any samples or inspirations you use in your creation are also cleared and not subject to their own copyrights.

7. Public Domain: Music, including instrumentals, that are in the public domain is not protected by copyright and can generally be used without restriction.

However, interpretations or recordings of public domain music can have their own separate copyrights, so always be sure about the status of the particular version you intend to use.

How do Some Youtubers use Copyrighted Music?

YouTube creators who successfully use copyrighted music in their videos typically navigate the copyright system with a combination of knowledge, permissions, and strategic choices. Here’s how some of them manage to use copyrighted tracks without running into issues:

1. Direct Licensing and Permission: Many YouTubers obtain direct permission from artists, record labels, or publishers to use specific songs.

This can be in the form of a formal license or a written agreement. Sometimes, artists or smaller labels might give permissions for free to get exposure, while others may charge a licensing fee.

2. Royalty-Free Music Libraries: Platforms such as Epidemic Sound, Musicbed, and Audiojungle offer vast libraries of tracks that creators can license for a fee.

By paying for these licenses, YouTubers have the right to use the music in their videos without copyright claims.

3. YouTube’s Audio Library: YouTube offers its own collection of free-to-use music and sound effects.

While these might not be mainstream hits, they’re cleared for monetisation on the platform.

4. Revenue Sharing: In some cases, when copyrighted music is detected in a video, instead of blocking or taking down the video, the rights holder may opt for revenue sharing.

This means ads may run on the video, but the ad revenue goes to the copyright holder of the music, not the video creator.

5. Short Clips and Fair Use: Some YouTubers use copyrighted music under the doctrine of ‘Fair Use,’ especially if the music is being critiqued, commented upon, or used in a transformative manner.

However, ‘Fair Use’ is a legal defense, not a right, and is determined on a case-by-case basis. It’s risky and can be subjective.

6. Cover Songs: Some YouTubers perform cover versions of copyrighted songs. While the original song’s composition is copyrighted, once a YouTuber creates their own recording of a cover, they own the copyright to that specific recording.

However, they’d still need to secure rights to the song’s composition, which YouTube often facilitates through revenue sharing arrangements with music publishers.

7. Partnering with MCNs: Some Multi-Channel Networks (MCNs) claim to have agreements in place with music rights holders, allowing their partnered YouTubers to use certain copyrighted music without issues.

However, the efficacy and trustworthiness of MCNs vary.

8. Accepting Copyright Claims:

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Some creators decide to use copyrighted music knowing they won’t earn ad revenue from the video.

They accept that the copyright owner will monetise the video but proceed because they value the content’s quality or message over monetisation.

9. Staying Updated on Policy Changes: YouTube’s policies, as well as music licensing laws, can change.

Savvy YouTubers stay updated to avoid copyright strikes or losing monetisation privileges.

How to Legally Use Copyrighted Music?

Using copyrighted music legally is crucial not only for respecting the rights of creators but also for avoiding legal complications.

Here’s a guide to help you navigate the complexities of using copyrighted music the right way:

1. Obtain Direct Licensing or Permission: The most straightforward way is to get permission directly from the rights holder, which could be the artist, record label, or music publisher. This often involves:

  • Contacting the copyright holder or their representative.
  • Negotiating terms of use, which may include a licensing fee.
  • Getting the agreement in writing.

2. Purchase a License through Music Licensing Platforms: There are various platforms, such as:

  • Epidemic Sound: Popular among YouTubers for a wide range of genres and moods.
  • Audiojungle: Offers affordable tracks for different types of projects.
  • Musicbed: Known for high-quality tracks suitable for film and advertisements.

These platforms allow you to buy licenses for individual tracks or subscribe for unlimited access.

3. Use Royalty-Free Music: “Royalty-free” means that you pay a one-time fee to obtain the rights to use the music and don’t have to pay recurring royalties.

However, “royalty-free” doesn’t mean “free.” Sites like Free Music Archive or Incompetech offer a mix of free and paid royalty-free tracks.

4. Explore Creative Commons Licenses: Creative Commons is a licensing system where artists can allow the use of their work under specific conditions.

Some licenses allow commercial use, some don’t; some require attribution, while others might allow modifications to the original track.

Always check the exact terms of the license.

5. Public Domain Music: Over time, some music’s copyrights expire, and these tracks enter the public domain.

This means they’re free to use without obtaining permission or paying a licensing fee. However, be cautious; while the composition might be in the public domain, specific recordings of that composition might still be copyrighted.

6. Sync Licenses and Master Licenses: If you’re using music for video or film, you’ll typically need two licenses:

  • Sync License: This grants permission to use the song’s composition (melody and lyrics).
  • Master License: This grants permission to use a specific recording of that song.

Often, different entities hold these rights. For example, a record label might own the master recording, while a music publisher might own the song’s composition.

7. Performance Licenses: For public performances, like playing music at events, venues, or on radio, you’d generally obtain a performance license from a Performing Rights Organisation (PRO) like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC in the U.S.

8. Be Wary of “Fair Use”: “Fair Use” is a complex legal doctrine that allows the use of copyrighted materials under specific circumstances, such as commentary, criticism, or parody.

However, claiming “fair use” can be subjective and doesn’t guarantee protection against copyright claims.

9. Always Provide Attribution (When Required): Even if a track is free or requires no licensing fee, some licenses may require you to credit the creator. Ensure you’re familiar with these requirements and follow them.

Conclusion

In the digital age, music remains an unparalleled medium for evoking emotion and enhancing content.

However, the intersection of creativity and legality requires careful navigation. To legally use copyrighted music, one must prioritise respect for artists’ rights and the intricacies of copyright laws.

By obtaining proper permissions, exploring licensing platforms, and staying informed, creators can enrich their work with music while ensuring harmony with legal standards. In essence, the right note in creativity also demands the right note in legality.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it legal to use a short clip of copyrighted music without permission?

The length of the clip does not necessarily determine its copyright status. Even short clips can be subject to copyright laws. It’s always best to obtain permission or a license, regardless of the clip’s duration.

Can I use copyrighted music if I’m not monetising my video or project?

Whether or not you’re making money from your project doesn’t exempt you from copyright laws.

Copyright holders have the right to control the use of their music, irrespective of monetisation. Always seek permission or a license.

What is ‘Fair Use,’ and can I rely on it to use copyrighted music?

‘Fair Use’ is a legal doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders.

It’s applied on a case-by-case basis, considering factors like the purpose of use, nature of the copyrighted work, amount used, and the effect on the market value.

However, relying on ‘Fair Use’ is risky, as it’s a defense, not a right, and its interpretation can be subjective.

Where can I find music that’s safe to use without worrying about copyright issues?

There are platforms like YouTube’s Audio Library, Epidemic Sound, Audiojungle, and Incompetech that offer music specifically for creators, either for free or through licensing.

Additionally, some artists release music under Creative Commons licenses, allowing for various uses.

Always check the terms of the license to ensure you’re using the music correctly.
 
 

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