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[I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on TV. Go to an actual lawyer if you want actual legal advice.]
Sometimes when I make videos I like to add some music. Sometimes for mood, sometimes just over the end credits. But YouTube is very aggressive about making sure that the music you use in your videos is yours to use. WAY too aggressive, sometimes.
It used to be that if someone else claimed your music for their own, YouTube would just remove the video until the dispute was settled. Man was that annoying. Now, depending on how the claimant wants it handled, YouTube might do anything from muting the sound on your video to replacing your monetization with their own monetization, with part of the proceeds going to the claimant, and you getting nothing.
Finding Copyright Claims
So how do you know if you have a claim against one of your videos? Simple. Go to your YouTube account (YouTube.com/YourYouTubeUsername).
Click on “Video Manager” near the top of the page.
Click on “Copyright Notices” on the left side of the page.
There, if you have any, you’ll be able to see all of the claims against your videos and take action to deal with them.
Disputing Copyright Claims
The best way to avoid all of this is to make sure that you don’t use someone else’s music in the first place, but that isn’t always practical. I’ve had copyright claims made against videos of my kids at a carnival because a ride is blaring a rock song in the background. I’ve taken videos of my daughter at dance class dancing to, yes, someone else’s recorded music. I expect those videos to have ads placed on them by the copyright holders. I think this is a reasonable solution. A much better solution than simply removing the video.
But most of the time, the music in the videos is music I’ve bought the rights to. That doesn’t stop those videos from being flagged by YouTube, however. When that happens, I have to dispute the claims.
At this point I can do that in just a minute or two. I generally use music from the same album, so I can copy and paste the licensing information and a link to the site where I purchased the license. When I got my first copyright claim, though, it took me a while to find this information. Do yourself a favor: When you buy music to use online, make a note of this info right away and keep it handy.
If you do dispute a claim it will look like this:
You’ll notice that some of those choices are false choices – click on one of the first three and you’re out of luck, because those actions don’t give you the right to use the music.
But if any of the other choices are true you may have a valid counter claim, and should make it.
Using Music Legally
I buy almost all of the music I use from a site called Royalty Free Music. This isn’t exactly a cheap option, but a few years ago I spent about $200 on a couple of albums and have only used a fraction of the music I now own the rights to. I have stock music for every mood I could ever need and don’t see myself needing to buy more, ever.
Royalty Free Music also has a selection of free stock music and images for educators, personal projects, and non-profits. Just don’t try to make money off of those.
Go to your video manager and click on “Create” on the left hand side, and you’ll see the option for the Audio Library.
You can sort the available music by genre, mood, instrument, or duration. They’ve got a really good selection. And I’ll mention again that it’s free. And they allow you to monetize videos that use this free music.
The music shouldn’t trigger any copyright notices, but you may have to provide some additional info if you want to monetize a video using their music. From their help page:
You may use music files from this library in videos that you monetize on YouTube. When submitting videos featuring these tracks for monetization, you may be required to supply additional documentation to show how you own commercial rights to the track. In this case, please include the exact title of the song and a brief statement that you downloaded it from the YouTube Audio Library.
There you have it. If you want to use someone else’s music you may be able to, but they might make money off of your video. If at all possible, use music that you have the right to use, keep the licensing info handy, and check your account regularly for copyright claims.