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How to Tell If a SoundCloud Song Is Copyrighted? – A Complete Guide

An African American woman singing

How to Tell If a SoundCloud Song Is Copyrighted? SoundCloud is a gold mine for aspiring video editors like you who want to up their game. It is a seemingly endless source of original songs and music you can use to take your productions to the next level.

But, it’s not a free for all. That music is the result of months and even years of blood, sweat and tears. It’s why many of the songs are copyrighted. Use those without crediting the artist, and you can face legal issues.

Are Songs on SoundCloud Free to Use?

SoundCloud allows aspiring artists to finally kick expensive production houses to the curb by giving them direct access to people who can appreciate their music. It also protects them. The platform allows users to upload music under a range of terms. However, you cannot use any music from the platform on say a YouTube video for free.

It all comes down to music licensing and copyright. As mentioned before, music that is uploaded on SoundCloud is owned by a specific label or an artist. So before you can use their track in your own productions, you have to ask them first and get it licensed.

If the owner has copyrighted their music, that means they are the only one who can use and distribute or record it. Copyright laws also allow them to prevent anyone from adapting their music or to perform it publicly without their express permission.

So to ensure you don’t use copyrighted music, just don’t use anything that someone else created. SoundCloud is a mecca for aspiring artists, so chances are the score you have your eye on cannot be used legally without the artist’s permission.

How You Can Avoid Copyright Issues on Soundcloud

Whether you are looking for music for an exhibition or for your own videos, SoundCloud is a great source for unique songs. To avoid copyright issues on SoundCloud, use the navigation panel. Just filter the song search by a Creative Commons license and go through the individual terms that are set by the owner. Just to be safe, email the creators to ensure you are providing credit where it is due.

Songs and music that can be streamed on the website fall under a range of licenses:

Public Domain License

 For example, you can only use music from SoundCloud that is under a public domain license.

This license protects the work and its artist for a certain period of time. In most cases, this is 70 years after an original publication. Once this copyright expires, the song becomes part of the public domain and can be used without legal repercussions.

A woman sound mixing for SoundCloud copyrighted song

Creative Commons

If you manage to find a song or music on SoundCloud under a Creative Commons (CC) license, you will hit the jackpot. Musical records under a CC license are free to use as long as the creator is given credit for them. There are certain variations you should be vary of though:


You need to give credit to the original artist. That is the only way you will be able to adapt, remix, build upon and use it and in any format.


As by CCY BY, CC BY-SA license means that the original artist should be credited, and adaptations (SA) have to be shared under the same terms as CC BY terms. In other words, if you modify the original song or music, you have to license that modified material under the same terms.


Unlike the first two licenses, songs that are under a CC BY-NC agreement cannot be used for commercial purposes. If you are using it for non-commercial use, you still need to give the artist credit for it.


In this case, credit should be given to the original creator, the song can only be used for noncommercial purposes and adaptations also need to be licensed under the same terms.


If you find a song with this license, you cannot modify it in any way and you need to give credit to the artist if you use it.


Songs under this license have to be credited, cannot be used for commercial purposes and cannot be modified or adapted.

Here is a great video that goes deeper into these licenses.

You CANNOT Use 30 Seconds of a Copyrighted SoundCloud Song

Try it and suffer the consequences! This is one of the most common misconceptions that video producers have when it comes to using licensed or copyrighted music. You cannot use even five seconds worth of a piece of music if it is copyrighted unless it is under a Creative Commons license or you have permission to do so from the owner.

Be a Responsible Video Producer

SoundCloud is supposed to be a safe haven for aspiring music artists who cannot afford expensive studios and agents. They deserve all the credit they can get and if their songs are distributed, changed, or used without their permission or illegally, you can face serious consequences. These were just some of the ways how to tell if a SoundCloud song is copyrighted. A lawyer can tell you more and so can this article.

So stay on the safe side and choose music that does not have any copyright on it.

Need more advice on copyrights?

Read these posts so you can make an informed decision:

What is Uncopyrighted Music?

‘Does This Song Have Copyright?’ Answering the Vital Question