Can you use copyrighted music in your YouTube videos without getting a copyright strike, and can you monetize that content? We give you the info you need.
Now a couple of things to say before we jump into this video, we apologize if there are any adverts - that doesn't usually happen with vidIQ but you're going to find out why very soon and we do apologize to our audience in Australia and New Zealand who might not be able to see this video above at all.
YouTube Content ID: Copyright Limitations
Now of course you may recognize this very inspiring and popular piece of music we are using in this video - ‘Wake Up’ from Arcade Fire, but the question is why are we using it right now? Well I'm going to show you how. If you point your web browser to YouTube.com/music_policies you can find out what will happen if you use music that is searchable in the music policy directory. In this example, when we search for ‘Wake Up’, it says the following:
If you use this song on a YouTube video, it will be viewable everywhere save for two countries. Those being Australia and New Zealand, hence my apology earlier on. I am not allowed to monetize the video, however. But if I wanted to do a cover version of this song, the video would be viewable in all countries on YouTube and I might be able to monetize the video and share the income with the copyright owner of the song.
This is Content ID in action. When YouTube can automatically detect a song, it treats it as copyright content and it can apply the specific policy as defined in the music directory. For a lot of creators, this usually happens when you try and sneak in a tiny snippet of a song or use what you thought was royalty-free music.
What often happens in this case is that the copyright claimant will monetize your content and since you use their material, (usually without their permission), there isn't much you can do about it. That's simply the way YouTube currently works.
Using Copyright Content on YouTube: The Consequences
Now as exciting as this may sound, using copyright content without the fear of getting copyright strike, it is in actual fact a very dangerous game. For the vast majority of popular music, recent music, or music you're just desperate to use, the usage policy will be a flat out no. Your video may be blocked, or muted, and you may even get a copyright strike. And in pretty much every single circumstance you won't be able to monetize your content. At best you may be able to share the revenue if you do a cover version.
You also have to consider this, just because you used copyrighted music in a video at a time when YouTube said it was safe to do so through their music policies, doesn't mean that that video is protected from copyright issues in the future. On YouTube's dedicated support page on usage restriction and claimed music, they say that copyright holders can change their policies and issue copyright takedown notices under certain circumstances. You video's status could change in the future and may even be removed from YouTube if a copyright owner makes a different decision in your individual case and changes the policies that apply to the music in your video.
All of which comes back to the question as to why are we using ‘Wake Up’ by Arcade Fire in this video. Well I checked on YouTube and there are other videos that have used this song that have been on YouTube for more than ten years - so we think we're relatively safe with this one.
This is also very much an educational video, which we think is pretty safe, and of course we don't monetize our content here on vidIQ so we don't have to worry about losing income from this particular video. This is all about helping you and providing value to you as video creators.
And this is what happened when we uploaded the video onto our channel, YouTube did identify the copyrighted music and by clicking into the claim, we can see that the video was blocked in Australia and New Zealand, it's not eligible for monetization, but it has not impacted the channel as regard to a copyright strike.
Using Copyrighted Music in Your YouTube Video
So to answer those two questions, can you use copyrighted music in your videos? Yes as long as you check but you're probably very limited with what you can do.
And if you want to monetize your content, can you use copyright music in those videos? In almost all circumstances, certainly not, unless you're doing a cover version of the music, in which case you may be able to share half of the revenue.
Ultimately if your strategy is to profit from other people's work on YouTube, I'm afraid you've got this all wrong. Now absolutely there is the strong argument of fair use and we are not lawyers, this is not legal advice.
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Carla Marshall is the Head of Content Marketing at vidIQ. She has 10+ years of experience in video marketing, social media management, content marketing, DRM, and SEO. She was previously Editor in Chief at ReelSEO.com, and as a journalist and video marketer, she's covered news stories, creator journeys, and digital-first publishing initiatives across all the major online video platforms. She is YouTube Certified and a judge for the Shorty Awards, as well as the UK, US, Canadian, Global, and EU Search Awards.