If you make YouTube videos, you will agree that copyright claims are super annoying!
Wouldn’t it be nice to see if a particular song or piece of music is copyrighted before uploading it?
In this post we will look at some practical tips how to check music for copyright and explore several options how you can legally use copyrighted music.
Music copyright basics
First, let’s get the terminology right.
From the legal perspective, with exception of music that is already in public domain (a.k.a. REALLY old), all music is copyrighted.
This applies to both the compositions (the melody and lyrics) and their actual recordings.
However, when most people say “copyrighted”, they typically want to know:
Can I use this music on YouTube (Facebook, Instagram, …) without getting in trouble?
Is it possible to legally use copyrighted music on YouTube?
So all music is copyrighted.. Don’t leave just yet!
Copyrighted means that each piece of music has the legal owner. However, that owner may be perfectly OK with you using their music on YouTube.
Here are some types of copyrighted music that you can legally use on YouTube:
1. Creative commons music
Many composers distribute their music under Creative Commons license.
You can use Creative Commons music free. However, depending on the specific license, you have to credit the author or only use the music in non-commercial videos.
This may not be the best option if you plan to monetize your videos.
2. Ad supported music
Many recording labels and publishers signed a deal with YouTube that allows creators to use their music in exchange for placing ads in videos.
If you don’t mind the ads, this can be a great opportunity to use top music in your videos. But (!) your videos won’t be eligible for monetization. That is, the ad revenue goes to the music owners.
This can be a good option for a hobby channel but certainly will not work for monetized or promotional videos.
3. Licensed music
If you have explicit permission or license from the rights owner, you can certainly use that music on YouTube.
How do you get the license? Here are some options:
1) This can be as simple as sending an email to an indie artist you like and asking permission.
2) For major recording artists you need to get in touch with their publishers and recording labels and negotiate the license. Typically, that wouldn’t be the most practical (or cheap) solution for a YouTuber.
3) License royalty free music made specifically for videos and commercial use. That’s the best option if you monetize. Make sure your music provider offers copyright support.
OK, back to the original topic.
So you want to use a song on YouTube.. how do you know what happens when you upload your video?
How to check music for copyright?
Before we get into the details, it’s important to understand how YouTube copyright works.
YouTube employs a robust copyright system called Content ID that helps music owners to protect their work and to make money to allowing others to use their music in YouTube videos.
Every time you upload a video, YouTube scans it to detect if your video contains any copyrighted music. If it finds a match, you get a copyright claim.
So the big question is:
How do I know in advance, which songs trigger copyright claims?
We’ve tested some “copyright checkers” that claim to answer this very question and the results were so disappointingly inaccurate that we decided not even post the links.
Which brings us to the only sure-fire, 100% accurate solution that is currently incorporated into YouTube’s own creators studio.
How to use creator studio to check if a song is copyrighted
YouTube creator studio has recently got a new feature that allows creators to check their videos for copyright issues BEFORE the video is published.
How cool is that!
Here’s a quick tutorial how you can quickly any music for copyright.
Step 1: Make a quick video
Unfortunately, you do need to make some kind of a video before you can test the music for copyright.
We’ve experimented with converting the file types from MP3 to MP4 and some other video types using both online and offline converters but apparently YouTube needs the real video.
Otherwise, all you get from YouTube is this error:
The footage can be literally anything. A simple video loop will do.
Ready? Upload your video to YouTube.
Step 2: Upload your video to YouTube
Start uploading in the creative studio as with any other video.
Look up the “Checks” tab – this will come handy once the processing is finished.
Step 3: See the results in the “Checks” tab
Once YouTube has finished processing the video, click on the “Checks” tab to see the results.
If the music is free of claims here’s what you will see:
If the music is registered with Content ID (hence will trigger copyright claims on YouTube), you will see a big red exclamation mark in the “Checks” tab:
Click on the “Checks” tab for details:
Now you click on “SEE DETAILS” to see how exactly your video will be affected if you proceed with the upload:
How this affects my video?
Recently YouTube has made changes to the Copyright Details screen.
On one hand it tells you the exactly what effect the claim has on your video.
On the other hand you need to dig a little deeper if you want to find our who issued the claim.
To find our more about the claimant, hover over “Impact on video” section:
Copyright claims do not necessarily restrict you from using the music.
In fact, the claim details page gives us all the information we need to make the decision.
So, in this particular example we see that:
1) This isn’t a copyright strike, so there is no penalty on my channel.
2) I cannot monetize the video.
3) I still can use the music if I don’t mind occasional ads.
4) If I have the license to use this music (and I want to monetize or don’t want the ads) I need to contact HAAWK to get the claim removed.
Will checking for copyright penalize my channel?
Testing for copyright will not penalize your channel.
If you still have concerns you can do this:
1) Set up a new channel specifically for testing.
2) Cancel the upload if you get a claim.
However, as we said, copyrights claims (not to be confused with copyright strikes) do not penalize the channel.
This method will only tell you whether a song is registered with YouTube’s Content ID system (and if you can monetize your video). This does not automatically grants you the legal permission or license to freely use the music. If you don’t have the permission to use the music, use it at your own risk.
Neither it guarantees that you never get a claim in the future.
Even if you’re not seeing any claims now, the copyright owner can decide to protect the content with Content ID later on or block your videos manually.
These risks will always be there if you’re using copyrighted material without permission. The only way to mitigate these risks is to get the permission (or license).
If you need music that you can legally use in videos and monetized YouTube channels (with lifetime royalty free license), check out our growing collection of royalty free music.
It is indeed possible to know with 100% accuracy if a song or a piece of music in copyrighted (that is, will trigger copyright claim on YouTube).
For that you need to make a simple video with that music, upload it to YouTube, and pay attention to the “Checks” tab during the upload.
In most cases, you still can use copyrighted music in your videos, as long as you don’t monetize.
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