Tips for Posting Copyrighted Music on YouTube, Part 1

A few weeks ago a reader wrote in with a question about using non-original music in a piece they are putting together. The distribution method for their creative work is, for now, only going to be on YouTube. Below are some of their questions,

  • What type of permissions do I need, if any?
  • Everyone is doing it, why can’t I?
  • Is a cover of a song different from putting the original song up there?
  • What type of liability do I open myself up to, if I am to do it?

These were all really great questions and so much material that it is going to take two blog posts to fully answer them. Be sure to tune in next week.

First, it is necessary to understand how copyright works in relation to music. As I explained in my post And The GRAMMY® Goes To, for every song you hear on the radio there are two (2) copyrights on the song.  There is a musical work copyright, including any accompanying words, and a sound recording copyright.  The copyright statute does not define the term musical work; however, the easiest way to think about a musical copyright is the actual music and lyrics of a song.  Said another way, a musical work copyright is the sheet music and is usually originally held by the musician or songwriter.

A song heard on a radio also has another copyright called a sound recording copyright, which is separate to the musical work copyright.  The sound recording copyright is taking the sheet music and recording the song.  The sound recording is the way in which an artist by way of a producer makes a musical work copyright sound.  The sound recording copyright is usually held by a record label by way of the producer.

Let’s look at the permission question first. In order to place music you did not create on your film on YouTube, from a strict technical standpoint, you need permissions from both of the above mentioned entities. You would need permission from the person who owns the musical work copyright AND permission from the person who owns the sound recording copyright. If either of those parties will not allow you to do it, then permission is not granted and you run the risk of infringing on someone else’s copyright.

Are you telling me that everyone on YouTube has sought and received these permissions? The answer to that question is a bit more complicated and will be covered next week. I’ll discuss the risks, how to analyze your situation and what to do if you get one of those nasty copyright infringement notices from YouTube.

What is your experience with YouTube?  Do you think it is friend or foe to creators?  Take part in the comments section below and Stay Tuned In!

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3 thoughts on “Tips for Posting Copyrighted Music on YouTube, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Countdown of 2014 | Statute of RyAnne

  2. Pingback: The Eye of Music Copyright Law | Statute of RyAnne

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