Music is a beautiful element to add to videos. But you need to know when it’s okay to do it. Read this guide to using copyrighted music.

Music copyright laws are no joke, there are many people who have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by incorrectly using copyrighted music in their own videos. When making your own videos you need to understand the music copyright laws or else you could run into major financial problems.

The right background music can positively impact the viewers of your videos, it can uplift, inspire, and impact their mood. If done correctly, even the tempo of the background music can inspire your viewers to make a purchase through your website.

The only problem is it seems that a majority of the best music to impact your audience seems to be copyrighted.

So how can you legally use music without risking a copyright lawsuit?

That is exactly what this article is about, keep reading to learn how to use copyrighted music the right way, so your videos rock and you do not risk losing thousands of dollars.

What is Copyrighted Music?
Copyrighted music is similar to a trademark law in the way that when a musician creates a composition, they are granted exclusive rights to use that music.

There are two separate rights that a composer/musician has when copyrighting their music:

    Musical rights – The right to the entire composition including the order/arrangement of the musical notes, chords, lyrics, harmonies, and rhythms. This usually protects the musician or composer themselves.
    Sound recording rights – refers to the exclusive use of the recording of the song. This usually protects the publisher or recording company.

Within those rights, there are other underlying rights such as:

  • The right to perform that song
  • The right to reproduce that song
  • The right to distribute that song
  • The right to create similar versions based on that song
  • To make it simple, if you use another person’s song and you are going to make money from the use of their song in your video, you are at risk for copyright laws. This is because you are inhibiting that musician/composer from being able to make the full amount possible from their musical composition.

    What Happens When You Use Copyrighted Music
    If you have horseshoes on, you may not have any problems. This is not typically the case, because if you are making money off the music, the owner of that song will want a major piece of the pie!

    At first, the entire audio on your videos may be muted. If you are doing tutorials, this will completely mess up your entire purpose of making videos. Youtube will also give you a “3 strike” policy and once you are busted 3 times for using copyrighted music, you are out and never allowed to publish on that platform again.

    You may also notice ads pop up that are interrupting your video, this is Youtube’s way of promoting the musician of the music that you are stealing.

    Now for the worst case scenario- you can get sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars from the author/musician/composer themselves.

    How Is Copyrighted Music Detected?
    Youtube has an incredibly smart and technical system called ContentID which plugs the audio of your video into a vast database of copyrighted compositions. If they detect an infringement, you will receive a notice and an opportunity to dispute that flag.

    Be Very Careful of Stock Music
    Be very careful about using stock music from your editing programs, as they are intended for private use. Once you upload and publish that music with your video for monetization on a social media platform, you can get flagged for copyright infringement.

    Read between the lines of the usage rights on all royalty-free and stock music before you monetize it on your published videos. Period.

    An Explanation of “Fair Use”
    Understanding the meaning of fair use can save you from dealing with future music copyright lawsuits, so pay attention!

    Fair use is a grey area between the lines of copyright protection and violations. All copyright cases are looked at on a case-by-case basis, so sometimes, if used correctly, there is a possible exemption from the law.

    You have a chance of being covered by fair use if you have music under these categories:

  • Accidental use, if you are filming in public and the specific music is incidentally playing in the background where you are. If the ContentID picks it up and recognizes that you are not playing the music yourself, you could get off the hook.
  • Educational purposes, but only if used within certain recognized educational institutions.
  • How Do You Get Permission to Use Copyrighted Music?
    If you are using the music in your videos for business purposes to optimize, promote, and sell your services you need to have a license to use the music.

    Look for a license that falls under either the public domain (expired copyrights) creative commons license (musicians that share their music).

    Make sure that you obtain two licenses for the songs- one will cover you to use the song and a master license for the recording of the song.

    What is Royalty Free Music?
    If you do not want to go through the financial hassle of obtaining licenses for the use of copyrighted music, just simply use royalty free music!

    Keep in mind that just because it says royalty-free, does not mean that it is, in fact, “free”. Sometimes you need a smaller license to play their music or have an agreement to provide a link or shout out to them in the description of your video.

    You can find many awesome royalty free music download websites, just make sure you read the usage rights and you are set!

    Learn More About Using Copyrighted Music, Correctly
    Now that you understand the laws behind using copyrighted music, you are probably wanting to avoid using it altogether. We don’t blame you, it is a thin line and there are many risks to using it just for the purpose of a recognized song in your video.

    If you want some video inspiration, check out these incredible music videos by emerging artists or get in the music mood by listening to some new awesome tracks!