3 Ways To Legally Use Copyrighted Music in Your YouTube Videos

Copyright violations are very common on the Internet. Many YouTubers use copyrighted music in their videos and frequently don’t realize the consequences.

YouTube is very strict about Copyright and can take your video down or even suspend your account for copyright infringement. Therefore, exercise caution when using music in your YouTube videos.

Here are 3 ways you can legally use copyrighted music in your YouTube videos:

1. Use work that is available within the public domain

Copyrighted work lose their copyright protection over a certain period of time and fall under the public domain. Thus, music within the public domain is free for everyone to use. In the US, any song or musical work published in 1922 or before is in the public domain. 

For more information on public domain music, visit The Public Domain Information Project website. The website has curated a list of musical works that have lost copyright protection over time. However, do not solely depend on the information provided by the website. Do your own research to confirm that a song is with a copyright date of 1922 or earlier. Additionally, if you are not from the US, check your country’s copyright laws to determine the usage of public domain music.

2. Obtain a license or permission from the owner of the copyrighted content

You need to obtain a license to use music that is not within the public domain. Stanford University Libraries have highlighted a five-step process to get permission for using copyrighted works.  

  • Determine if a copyrighted work requires permission.
  • Identify the original owner of the content.
  • Identify the rights needed.
  • Contact the owner and negotiate payment
  • Get the permission agreement in writing

Be vigilant of the copyright conditions for the song you are using. This is because, some recordings have both, a copyright for the song and for the recording of the song itself. Thus, you will be required to obtain two licenses to use the song.

3. You can reuse music from YouTube videos with a Creative Commons license

Some YouTubers obtain the Creative Commons license to make their work available for reuse by others. YouTube allows such users to mark their videos with a CC BY license. People can can use these videos for commercial and non-commercial purposes via the YouTube Video Editor. When you make a YouTube video using Creative Commons content, the source video’s title will be automatically attributed under the video player. Below are the steps to find Creative Commons content on YouTube:

Step 1: Perform a search

Step 2: Click on the “Filters” option

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Step 3: Select “Creative Commons” under “Features”.

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Step 4: All the videos displayed in the search will have a Creative Commons license.

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Copyright violation is punishable by law. The best way to avoid copyright infringement is to create original content. Nonetheless, be very aware of the ways to legally use copyrighted music on YouTube. Follow the above tips to to avoid getting penalized for copyright infringement.

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Manasa Boggaram is a writer and has a strong passion for music, positive news and constructive journalism. When she is not researching story ideas or writing blog posts, she spends her time reading books, discovering new music and eating lots of street food.