This is becoming a delicate subject lately, I will touch on why it’s delicate towards the end of the article. I remember my first encounter with a YouTube copyright infringement. I wanted to make a “Happy Birthday” video for my son last year because I was not able to see him that particular day, so I thought it would be cool to make a video out of many of his pictures growing up over the years and play some nice music in the background of the video. I proceeded to make my whole nights focus on creating this “what will be great” video.
So I spent a couple of hours putting it all together with some nice music I picked from my iTunes list.
I finally get the little project done, happy as can be, I figure I will just upload it to YouTube as the video’s file size would be much too large to send through an e-mail or similar approach. So I pull up my YouTube account and start uploading. Anyone that has ever uploaded to YouTube knows that it can sometimes be a real waiting game. Finally, like 2 hours later I get some message “I don’t remember exactly” saying something to the effect that I can’t upload this because of potentially unowned content. I was really upset at first thinking, what are they talking about? Unowned content? The video was pictures and videos of my son, I took, while he was growing up, how could I not own this content.
So I tried to upload it again thinking it must be some kind of mistake or deterrence from putting silly videos of my kid online. So, another couple of hours pass (large video file) and by this time it is probably past 12 o’clock mid-nite and I get the same message once again. I was so mad at that moment thinking, WTF? Little did I realize in my days as a novice of using YouTube I could not incorporate some of my iTunes music that I legitimately purchase and paid for, into the video. I was so mad at the moment because I had spent most of the night making this special video.
Obviously, I started doing some digging the next day to find out why my video would not upload and it became very clear really fast. I realized quickly that “oh ya, I didn’t make that music” you can’t just use other people’s copyrighted music in your video. That’s not to say people don’t do it because I almost daily see people using music that they didn’t make or own the rights to.
There are a handful of theories on how to get around this such as claiming fair use or typing i don’t own this copyrighted material in the description box. Or to only use a couple seconds of the music or video in your material. I have seen this approach quite often.
Alternatives are to use Royalty Free music, there are several artists through iTunes that sell royalty free tracks or you can use the YouTube Creator Tools Audio Library. There are dozens of websites across the internet that sell royalty free music that you may use in your creations as well.
YouTube also has an Ad-Supported music selection that you could use but you will not be able to monetize your videos while using this feature. Some of the tracks are from famous and well-known songs, they can be played in most countries but each track has its own set of rules. The original creators of the copyrighted work will benefit from you choosing their song, not you. If you are just making a video for fun or something that you are not concerned about trying to earn money from this might be an option for yourself.
Well, what about people who use a clip from a popular movie to help illustrate the point they are trying to make in their own videos. That’s another No-No, I have read different opinions on this type of thing and everyone seems to say something different. I have seen many times where a famous YouTuber will include like a 5-second blip of a movie to add some sort of a point, funny moment or example into their videos and seemingly get away with it. I don’t completely understand how some people seem to get away with it vs. others never making it past the upload of the video.
If in general you upload a lot of content and have a lot of positive viewership my guess is you are more likely to get away with it vs. if you only have a few videos it seems like they scrutinize your content more? That’s my opinion from what I have seen at this point. I would say if you are not monetizing the content you are much more likely to succeed uploading it. I have countless times, looked up funny scenes from a movie to show a friend that has not seen that particular movie and they are quite easy to find on YouTube most of the time. I know the people behind these uploads do not own the material nor do they even make reference that they don’t own the material and some of them even monetize it, so I am not completely sure how it works.
My feeling is, it’s kind of like the old wild west because there is so much area to police it’s kind of impossible for YouTube to police everything and everyone, so in many cases, people get away with doing things they shouldn’t be doing. That is until they are caught and then the video or videos are taken and down and the person possibly loses their account. I am sure there is a whole sub-culture out there that uploads popular videos and music to intentionally monetize it for as long as they can before being shut down in the hopes of making a little bit of money, but that is getting off the topic a bit.
My best and most correct recommendations would be; basically, DO NOT use copyrighted music in the background of your vlogs or use copyrighted footage from movies, commercials, etc. YouTube will likely reject your video before you can even upload it. This is the clearest way to keep your account in good standing and not have your account become canceled after you likely have put in a lot of time and hard work making your videos. I am sure there are exceptions to the rules, but I am not going to advise you to break them.