Can You Use Copyrighted Music On YouTube?

Last updated March 08, 2021

user Written by Nhat Kieu Minh

Can You Use Copyrighted Music On YouTube?

The question of can you use copyrighted music on YouTube may linger whether you are planning to monetize your videos or not. As the platform has now implemented serious acts on copyright infringement, it’s time for YouTubers to attach weight to this issue.

You can not resort to any hacks or tricks advertised out there. No one hopes to get involved in legal trouble that may lead to an obligatory penalty of hundreds of thousand dollars. That’s not to mention expenses on attorneys and court.

That is to say, the only way to protect yourself from blocks and bans and build a long-term career is to comply with music licensing regulations. 

This article will guide you through the most basic points relating to this concern.

What Is Music Copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property law that protects the original works of a creator. It determines the legal users of a copyrighted piece of music and enables them to make money from or outside YouTube.

Assuming that you are an artist, you must have put your heart and soul into every composition before publishing it to the audience. Copyrights may not be your focal point, but you should grasp all of its basics to protect you and your works.

What Is Music Copyright?
Rules And Policies

In the music industry, there are two major copyright types as follows:


A composition includes everything that makes up a song: the notes, melody, and chord. These components can be written on paper or recorded by electrical equipment.

This copyright can be held by one or all involved artists, from the writers to lyricists. The publisher also shares a certain part of the right.

Master Recording

The master copyright is enjoyed by a sound recording, featuring a specific musical composition expression. It is produced by one person or a group of people. 

This copyright belongs to the performing artists, the producer, the recording artists, or all of them.

In some cases, the writer is also the artist, for example, a band that composes and records their pieces. However, they are still two separate individuals when it comes to copyright law.

Almost in all agreements, the record labels shall enjoy the ownership over the recordings. Accordingly, they are eligible for distributing and monetizing their artist’s products.

Please note that the copyright law will vary among countries. So make sure you learn about your nation’s detailed regulations.

How Does Music Licensing Matter To The Copyright Holders?

YouTube’s Rules And Policies

Music licensing covers some steps required to get the permission from a creator to incorporate their products in your projects.

To make it simple, you can understand that copyright law allows the copyright owner to approve other people’s projects. In that way, the licensor and licensee can enter an explicit and win-win relationship.

YouTube has published a straightforward guide for this procedure. You can follow the rules designated for each entity: Fair Use if you are the re-user, Making Claims for the original holders, and Enforcing copyright for both parties.

What Happens If You Become An Infringer?

Such a clear and systemized workflow also means that YouTube will not tolerate any violation, even the incidental mistakes.

The system will merely send you a notification to inform you that it has detected a piece of copyrighted music in your video(s). And the copyright holder shall decide the specific settlement afterward.

Example video piracy
Example video piracy

The artist can track your video’s statistics on viewership. This act does not affect either the project or your benefits.

YouTube can mute your video in a worse scenario, making it still visible but without audio. Otherwise, the platform can choose to monetize it by running ads, which means you are left without any possibility of monetization.

The last and most unexpected option is that the legal owner can block your work. Once your video is penalized, your channel’s ranking will inevitably be degraded, and this demotion is unfortunately irreversible even if you delete the video.

Read more: How To Remove Copyright From Video?

What Do You Need To Use Copyrighted Music On YouTube Legally?

Except for creative commons and public domain music, you must pay strict attention to music licensing to secure yourself from all penalties and copyright claims.

Fundamental Steps To License A Song

The entire process of musing licensing can last from weeks to a few months. To get the permission, you will have to contact every person related to that copyright ownership.

Thereafter is the negotiation step, you and the other party will agree on a final price. The contract may determine the royalty payments, namely a portion of the revenue you will share to the copyright keepers.

The song’s price depends on its popularity and each label’s policies. Yet apparently, the licensing fees can become very expensive and unaffordable for entry-level YouTubers.

A Convenient Alternative

Fortunately, there are far more time-saving and budget-friendly solutions to save you from the complicated licensing process.

Royalty-free music has emerged as a favorite trend that allows content creators to embed high-quality songs into their project without having to wait for the direct approval.

Here’s how it helps you. A royalty-free music company will license products from original artists and trade that use other creators’ rights to exchange just a fraction of the total price.

As a result, instead of paying thousands of dollars for a unit, you will invest a fragment of price (usually a couple hundred dollars) to use it legally.

Another huge benefit is that you will pay for the permission only once. Because no record labels will be involved in the purchase, there is no revenue fraction to worry about.

Can You Use Copyrighted Music On YouTube If you Don’t Monetize Your Video?

Now the question “Can you use copyrighted music on YouTube?” has been solved. You may wonder whether it is possible if you participate in YouTube only for sharing and entertainment purposes?

The direct answer is no. YouTube will protect the copyright holders from any infringement, regardless of a monetization channel or not. 

As soon as the system receives a claim – even from a third party – it will allow the legitimate owner to determine an act on your project. If you aren’t making any profit, what could be worse than paying for your products?

There are still many places where you can get free songs for your YouTube videos. Although the offer may cater to a less varied list, I believe they can satisfy a non-monetized channel’s needs.


I hope that after reading through this article, you now know the exact verdict concerning “Can you use copyrighted music on YouTube?”. Whether you have started a career on this platform or joined as a normal user, complying with regulations is always a must.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have questions or anything to share. Your opinions always mean a lot!


Nhat Kieu Minh linkedin

CEO & Founder of EazyViral

Continuously growing is our main target to become one of the best trustable providers in social networking services.

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