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How to Add Commercial Music to Youtube Video Without Infringing Copyright

Born in 2005, YouTube has achieved to become the leader video sharing platform on the web. Actually owned by Google, YouTube is today a real social network, with the ability to interact with other users by commenting their videos, follow channels and even make posts (this last feature is available only for channels with a certain number of subscribers).

YouTube: an alternative to TV

Growth of YouTube has changed the way we deal with videos and movies: the platform is something which can compete with the traditional TV channels, due to the availability of various kinds of videos to watch, including videos from the same TV networks. On YouTube you can watch videos posted by other users, movies purchased on the platform, web series, clips from TV shows like MasterChef, X-Factor and other ones. From a viewer perspective, YouTube is literally an unlimited resource which can be used to take full control of what we want to watch, while for a creator it is an opportunity to grow and to get known for what we are able to do: singing, making tutorial videos, dancing, cooking... everyone can start a YouTube channel about their hobbies or jobs.

Watching YouTube on a TV

Watching YouTube on a TV

Some people who decide to take the big step and start to upload videos on the popular platform, at a certain point are going to face concerns regarding background music to add to their videos. YouTube already offers a library of free songs available for unlimited use on all the videos published on the platform, still some people may prefer to use a famous song one could easily listen to the radio too. Here we come to the question: is it risky to use commercial music on a YouTube video?

Scrolling the homepage of YouTube

Scrolling the homepage of YouTube

Using of commercial music may be allowed on YouTube

The answer may surprise you: you can generally add copyrighted music to your YouTube video. If your work is considered 'fair use' (in the case of a song, it may happen when you are reviewing it) you would be able to use it without any particular limitation. If you put music in your video simply in order to add a value to your work, then we have to distinguish among different cases.

  • Songs protected by YouTube Content ID: YouTube features a tool record labels can use in order to claim their songs and set certain rights associated to them. YouTube's algorithm automatically detects songs featured in videos posted by users: whenever copyrighted music is found in your video, a specific mark will be attributed to it and credits to the song will appear in the information of the video. Plus, after the mark is added, the video may be restricted according to what the record label has decided: Content ID allows to mute videos containing a certain song, restrict them from being played in some specific countries, take down the videos or do nothing (in this case the use of the song is free). Most of the record labels usually just limit the video to be played in some countries due to some legal reasons, but then allow everything else: in this case, by using a copyrighted song in your video, you would simply get less potential audience. Generally, record labels give a certain freedom of use and apply low restrictions, also because Content ID always allows them to monetize all the videos using their songs. Here we go to the main point: music companies prefer to earn from your videos instead of limiting your use of their songs. This also means your videos will always show ads and you will not be able to monetize them (with the exception of cover songs: in this case you can generally earn half of the profits from the ads, providing that you are already part of YouTube monetization program). For amateurial YouTube users, who simply upload few videos as a hobby, this is not generally a problem, providing that you always look at what are the rights you have on a certain song, as there are still record labels who prefer to enforce more restrictive measures, like even taking down your video or muting it.
  • Songs not protected by Content ID: in this case you should never use them if they are a copyrighted work, as these songs are not regulated by the YouTube rights management system. Using a copyrighted song not belonging to a Content ID approved record label means a possible takedown for copyright infringement, in case the record label reports it to YouTube. A takedown, in this case, means that your YouTube channel's copyright score will decrease, as you have actually incurred in a true violation of the rights of someone else. This may also lead to suspension of your channel, in case of multiple violations. The best reccommendation is to use copyrighted songs belonging to the most common record labels, as these are almost surely using the Content ID platform.


Using copyrighted music on a YouTube video is not always illegal: in most cases it is allowed due to the Content ID system. Still, in order to use the most famous commercial hits as a background music for your video, you have to deal in most cases with some ads shown and with the unavailability of your work in some countries.

© 2020 Alessio Ganci

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Emmyboy from Nigeria on November 24, 2020:

Thanks for sharing.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on November 24, 2020:

I use you tube to find videos to post with my poetry.

There has been the occasion where I cannot get a football game on television so I turn to YouTube.

Usually I get the game on and cast to my television. Only to be told later that this video has ended due to no permission for one to play.

It is frustrating when you try to watch a game this way so I rarely do anymore.

It's off to book a hotel room or go to a local bar that has the feed.

Thanks for the read.

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