YouTube Copyright: The Ultimate Guide

YouTube copyright ultimate guide

Frustrated with YouTube copyright claims?

Are you frustrated with getting copyright claims on your videos for using free or royalty free music?

Or even worse, getting slapped with claims when you actually PAID for a license?

Do you find the YouTube copyright rules confusing and hard to understand?


Hi, I’m Mik, a music composer at TunePocket, a subscription royalty free music library that offers music for YouTube vloggers and videographers. In this guide I will go over how YouTube copyright works and how you can safely use music in your videos.

In this post I will share everything that I’ve learned over the years of creating and licensing music for YouTube videos and commercial use.


1. How copyright works on YouTube?

2. Can I use copyrighted music on YouTube?

3. How to avoid copyright on YouTube?

4. How to resolve copyright claims?

How copyright works on YouTube

Let’s start with what is a copyright claims and why YouTube puts claims on videos.

YouTube employs a robust system called Content ID that allows copyright owners to protect their music.

how youtube content id works

Every time you upload a video, YouTube scans it against its Content ID database to detect if your video contains any copyrighted music. If it finds a match, you get a copyright claim.

See we even got a claim for using our own music on our own YouTube channel. How crazy is that??

youtube video with copyright claim

So, at this point you may be thinking that the only way not to get copyrighted on YouTube is to use music that isn’t registered with Content ID. That would be very sad, because lots and lots of great music is protected by Content ID.

Fortunately, that’s not the case.

Unlimited royalty free music for videos and commercial use
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Can I use copyrighted music on YouTube?

You CAN use copyrighted music on YouTube, as long as you understand the rules.

So you uploaded a video and got the claim. At this point, you are surely asking yourself, is this bad for my channel?

Not necessarily. This ultimately depends on the copyright owner and whether they want to allow others to re-use their content.

Most copyright owners will allow using their music in exchange for having ads running in your video. However, other things may happen:

  • Your video is blocked worldwide.
  • Your video is blocked in some countries.
  • Your video is muted.
  • You can’t monetize your video.
  • Ads appear in your video.
what happens if i use copyrighted music on youtube

Now, the BIG question is:

How do I know in advance what happens when I use copyrighted music?

To start, look at YouTube Music Policy database.


YouTube has removed the Music Policy page along with the old Creator Studio. According to YouTube, the page wasn’t “popular enough”.

youtube music policy removed

You can read below (and see how great it was) or jump to the next section that discusses how to avoid copyright claims on YouTube.

The music policy database lists thousands of popular songs and can tell you what exactly happens when you use a particular song in your video.

Please note that the policies apply only to YouTube videos. Other social media platforms may have a different policy for the same song.

If you scroll through the policy or look up some of your favorite artists, you’ll notice that some songs are not available at all:

youtube music policy - blocked

and some are available to use if you’re willing to show ads in your videos:

youtube music policy - ads

Some won’t be available in most countries, though:

youtube music policy - blocked by country

You need to understand that if you use music listed in the Music Policy database, you will receive a copyright claim notifying you that you use copyrighted content.

While claims get lots of bad rap from the creators, you may often ignore them, as long as your video isn’t blocked and you don’t mind the ads.

There are, however, two important cases when you want to avoid copyright claims:

a) You are monetizing your videos. Most claims will disable your monetization. That is, you will have to share your advertisement revenue with the claimant. Not good!

b) You create promotional videos. Claims make ads show in your videos. Now, imagine you’re trying to promote your small business but your viewers are greeted by a huge pre-roll ad of your biggest competitor. Not good!

How to avoid copyright on YouTube?

Obviously, the most straightforward option is to use the music that isn’t registered with Content ID or permanently whitelisted by YouTube. Where can you find it?

YouTube Audio Library

One of the most reliable sources is YouTube’s own free Audio Library.

youtube audio library

It’s a large library of free music and sound effects that won’t trigger any claims in your videos. This is a great solution for any YouTuber who needs music for videos but you need to understand the limitations:

a) All content is available in MP3 format only, so if you prefer your audio in 24 Bit / 48 kHz pro format, you won’t find it there.

b) Some music requires attribution, which means you must credit the original artist.

c) It’s a large library but it’s not as comprehensive as most established commercial music libraries. Expect a nice rounded collection of pop, rock, funky, acoustic, and basic cinematic soundtracks but not much of that hot future bass or chillhop sounds.

d) The licensing terms are not clear when it comes to using the music off YouTube or using it in freelance or commercial projects (aside from monetizing your own videos on YouTube). There is no explicit license to fall back to, except saying the music came from YouTube’s free library.

e) YouTube will provide no support or legal assistance for any issues related to using this music outside of YouTube.

f) It’s not clear what happens to your license if YouTube removes that song for some reason.

youtube free music library limitations
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Unlimited download. Lifetime license. Save over 50% compared to similar services.

Will i get claims if I use free music?

There is plenty of legal free music on the Web, starting from public domain music, creative commons music, in addition to free music distributed by artists and even some music libraries.

As a rule of thumb, with the exception of public domain music, you cannot simply assume that you can use any music in a video. Even if you can download it for free.

From a legal point, the only way you can legally use non-public domain music in a video is when you have the explicit permission (typically in a form of a license) granted to you by the copyright owner.

That permission must specifically mention that you can use the music in a video. For monetized channels, it also must mention that you are getting the right to monetize your videos.

This license does not have to be issued to you personally (however, that helps a lot in case of any dispute), it can be simply publicly stated on the copyright owner’s Web site where you download the music. However, it is still your responsibility to make sure you’re using the legit resource.

You still can get copyright clams for using free music, even if you obtained it legally from the rightful owner.

It still comes to whether that music is registered in the Content ID database or not. In fact, many artists who distribute their music for free do register it with Content ID to track usage and to prevent abuse.

However, having a license (or any other ability to confirm that you can use that music on YouTube without the ads) will give you ability to remove the claim.

Will i get claims for royalty free / no copyright music?

The terms “royalty free” and “copyright free” may mean different things to different people.

Without getting into the details, it still comes to this: If a particular song is registered with Content ID it will trigger a claim, even if it’s labelled “no copyright” or “royalty free”.

A word or caution. Avoid using any music with murky or unclear licensing details, especially for commercial and business related projects.

Related: What is royalty free music

Related: Non copyrighted music for YouTube, Twitch, Instagram

Will i get claims for fair use?

Content ID is essentially a matching system and it can not determine the context. Simply put, if it finds a match, you get a claim, regardless of where your video qualifies as fair use or not.

Will i get a claim if I purchase a license?

Many music libraries and individual musicians will be happy to license you their music to use in YouTube videos.

Many people who purchased a license get extremely frustrated when they still get copyright claims for legally licensed music.

Remember, Content ID is a matching system and it will trigger a claim upon a match. It simply doesn’t know (yet) that you have the license.

However, having a license allows you to easily remove the claims and in some cases even whitelist your YouTube channel to prevent future claims.

Valid license is the sure-fire way to deal with copyright claims!

Many commercial music libraries will tell you which of their music tracks are registered with Content id, so you can always make an informed decision. In TunePocket you can simply filter out all Content ID registered music with one click.

However, keep reading. Removing copyright claims isn’t all that complicated. Most professional musicians and artists use Content ID, either directly or through a digital distributor, so you don’t want to limit your music choices.

How to resolve copyright claims

Despite your best efforts to avoid the claims, you still may end up with a claim on your video. If you don’t have a license, removing claims may be tricky. The only option is to dispute with YouTube. However, be prepared to explain why you think you are entitled to use that music in your video without the ads.

In the new Creator Studio click the Dispute link under “Actions”:

dispute youtube claim

I do have to say that without having a license or some other sort of a formal permission from the rights owner, your chances of getting rid of the claim are rather slim.

It gets much easier when you do have the license, though. Scott Dumas, a professional videographer and one of TunePocket subscribers, explains the entire process in this step-by-step video tutorial:

Read more: How To Resolve YouTube Copyright Claims

Many people are asking: will I get a strike if I dispute the claim? No. There is no penalty for disputing copyright claims.

TunePocket Unlimited Music For Videos And Commercial Use SM

Takeaway: YouTube copyright

YouTube copyright rules may seem confusing and hard to understand but it all comes to this:

If a particular song is registered with Content ID, you will get a claim. It doesn’t matter is that song is labelled “royalty free”, “no copyright”, or came from a music library.

Most claims (unlike strikes) are harmless but ads may appear in your video and you may not be able to monetize.

Having a license or a formal permission will help you to quickly and easily resolve copyright claims and in some cases even whitelist your entire channel.

Hope this helps!

Questions? Comments?

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