Copyright is pretty important in the music industry. It helps to protect people against intellectual property theft. Of course, when you need to use music for a video or a presentation that may need to go online, copyright infringement can be quite a pain to deal with.
Thankfully though, your video or presentation does not need to be completely silent. Instead, you can simply use music without copyright infringement. It can be quite complicated to understand but stick with us and we will tell you everything that you need to know!
The Importance Of Copyright
First of all, it’s important to establish why exactly it is that copyright is important.
Copyright infringement ultimately comes down to a little thing that we know as intellectual property. You may have heard of this term before, but let’s break it down.
So you’ve written a song – it’s been made completely by you, and thus it is your intellectual property. Intellectual property literally means ‘an idea, a design, etc. that somebody has created and that the law prevents other people from copying,’ according to the Oxford Learners Dictionaries.
If it is legally your intellectual property, then you are protected in the event that somebody attempts to steal it. For instance, if you tried to claim a Taylor Swift song as something you have written, then she would probably take you to court for it. The same goes for anything that you write. Intellectual property law consists of different levels, such as trademarks, patents, copyrights and registered designs.
In summary, copyright is important as it protects your rights as an artist. Copyright is a critical component that keeps the music industry functioning as it should. That’s often why it can be so difficult to use music that has been written by someone else in a form of media – it simply does not belong to you. That doesn’t always mean that you can’t use it, of course.
How To Avoid Copyright
Now that you know what copyright is and why it’s important, you will now want to know how you can avoid it when it comes to things that you create. Here are some ways that you can avoid copyright.
Learn what copyright laws protect
Understanding can go a long way when it comes to copyright. If you know what you’re up against then it will certainly make things a lot easier for you. It’s important to note that while copyright laws are a form of protection for intellectual property, they are not the same as licenses, patents, and trademarks, though they do often fall under the same sort of umbrella. Copyrights tend to be much easier to get, but the problem is that copyright laws are also very simple to violate. This often isn’t intentional, but it can still happen. You can ensure that you are protected against copyright strikes by checking out the US Copyright Act of 1970, in addition to the Berne Convention Regulations. If you are going to use someone’s work, make sure that you are going about it in the correct way. Alternatively, if you didn’t actually create the music yourself, then perhaps it may be a better idea to stay clear of it…
If it isn’t your original work, don’t use it
And that leads us to our next point. As we will establish later in this article, there are certainly ways that you can use work that you haven’t written in a form of media and be safe from copyright infringement strikes. With that being said, there’s always the risk that copyright claims can crop up, especially if an artist changes their mind later down the line about how far they wish to go with their copyright.
As such, the best way to avoid getting copyright infringement strikes is to simply not use work that you didn’t create yourself. It’s the same in real life, right? You wouldn’t just touch someone else’s belongings and take it for yourself if it wasn’t yours – that’s basically theft. It’s the same idea when it comes to copyright. There’s a caveat, of course.
Avoid using any music created by others unless you have their permission
You can also avoid getting a copyright strike by expressly asking the artist whether you can use their work. If you have permission from the artist then this can mitigate the issue. Of course, this isn’t always possible in some cases – on the subject of Taylor Swift, she probably isn’t going to answer your email requesting if you can use her song Love Story for background music on your school project video of an analysis of Romeo and Juliet. In this case, it may be better to just use a song you’ve written yourself, or venture into the world of creative commons work.
Music you find on the internet is not always fair game
You may think that you can use pretty much anything that you find on the internet when it comes to music. After all, it’s there for the taking right? Well, that’s not actually the case. If something is a creative work like a song or literary works, then there’s a good chance that it has automatically been copyrighted upon its creation. If you decide to copy, recreate, or otherwise use someone else’s work and it has already been copyrighted, then that’s someone else’s intellectual property that you are playing with. It doesn’t matter whether you benefit from it in a financial sense – it will automatically be viewed as copyright infringement.
Copying someone else’s music, in particular, can be a big problem. This can go for things like music covers too where you sing a version of someone else’s song. You need to be incredibly careful about how you do things like this – always check the copyright laws first before posting anything online that may be considered to be someone else’s intellectual property.
If you do use someone else’s music, make sure you have necessary permission
In the event that you do still want to use music that has been created by someone else, you need to ensure that you have been given permission to do so by the creator. This usually comes in the form of some kind of license that you will be given by the people that have copyrighted the work.
So how exactly do you get permission to use a song for your work?
Getting permission to use a song
If you want to use someone else’s work then it’s important that you get their permission to do so. Ultimately if you write a song then you are the owner of the idea of the song – the intellectual property. This master copy of the song is pretty important. For instance, if you want to do a cover of the song then you should still be able to get royalties for it, so long as someone is using the original song in a lawful way. If you post a video online of you using someone else’s music, then there’s a chance that the video may be taken down, the video could be muted and if you are looking to get ad money, your chances of getting it are practically non-existent.
To get permission, you first need to start out by working out who it is that owns the intellectual property copyright. You can then get in touch with them. This can sometimes be a challenge if there are a number of people who own the song, such is the case if there is a recording artist and a lyricist. In general, though, it can be helpful to start with the most obvious choice – the music publisher or recording company. You can generally find this information online on websites such as ASCAP.
Contact the copyright holder by writing a letter/email
Now that you have managed to find the copyright holder, it’s now time to ask for permission to use the work in your media. This usually works best if you write them a letter or an email. There are plenty of guidelines that you can follow online for this. In general, though, the letter should consist of a brief introduction, stating the reason for writing and what song you wish to use. You then need to explain to them how you are going to use the piece of music and what the purpose is. You then need to ask them to agree to it – some negotiation may be required. If you have a large following or you want a profit then there’s a chance that you may need to pay the copyright holder in order to use the work.
Alternatives to getting permission
As we have now established, it can be quite complicated in some respects to get permission to use a song. So what can you do instead? Well, there are certainly some options.
Purchase royalty free music
Royalty free music may not be your first choice – after all, we all want to use songs that people know. As discussed previously though, this can often be more difficult than it’s really worth. Royalty free music can be a good choice, and it’s by far the easiest way to find music that you can use regularly.
There are a lot of benefits to using royalty free music. It’s easy to access because there are a plethora of places that will offer royalty free songs. There are some great places online that do royalty free music, so you are sure to find something that will work for you. You just need to find one that will work well for you.
Not only that, but royalty free music doesn’t cost a lot of money either so it’s a fantastic option if you are making content on a budget. It’s not going to be as good as the slightly more expensive royalty free music, of course! If you’re using royalty free music you’re also giving attention to slightly lesser known musicians too – you’re doing your part in making another musician’s career take off. You can’t do that by using a Taylor Swift song!
In short, you should definitely think about using royalty free music in your work.
Search for music that’s in the public domain
Alternatively, you can also use public domain music. This is exactly what it sounds like – music that is accessible to pretty much any member of the public. You can use this music for your leisure and won’t get any legal issues as a result.
How do you know if a song, or any other piece of creative work, is in the public domain? Well, if it was published before the year 1925 then it is most likely in the public domain. You can also search for the song online to see if it has reached public domain status. Songs by composers like Beethoven, Mozart and more are all things that you will find in the public domain. There are also many more options in the public domain that you can use if you look hard enough – there’s a good chance that people will recognize the music too, which is always a bonus.
Copyright On You-Tube
These days, most people want to use music for things like YouTube videos. But how exactly does copyright work on this popular streaming site?
First of all, there’s a common misconception on YouTube that if you write in the description ‘this song was written by the Arctic Monkeys originally’ or something along those lines, then you aren’t going to get violated for copyright infringement. This simply isn’t true. You are ultimately breaking the copyright rules either way. You still need to follow the guidelines that we have listed above, such as contacting the copyright owner for their permission.
Copyright is no joke to the folks of YouTube, so you had best make sure that you aren’t making any copyright violations! There are a few things that could potentially happen if you breach a copyright violation.
A Takedown Notice
If you are breaching copyright on YouTube and someone reports you, then a complaint can be sent to YouTube. They will then investigate it and if it is true then the platform will simply remove your video.
Content ID Match
They will generally do something called a content ID match. This is YouTube’s system for finding matching content to other videos on the website. It’s usually required that an original copyright owner has something called reference files to prove that they originally created the work.
Fighting Copyright Strikes
If you have been given a copyright strike and you don’t think that it’s fair, then it’s possible to lodge a complaint to restore your work. Before you do this though you should always clarify that you have the data needed to prove that you are the original copyright owner. It can be a pretty sticky situation since this is a kind of legal process, after all.
Be very careful when making content for YouTube. If you get too many copyright strikes on YouTube, then you can be banned from the platform for life. It may seem a little unforgiving, but it’s ultimately there to ensure that creators, including you, are protected so it’s very important.
If you get a copyright strike then you need to do something known as a ‘copyright school.’ It’s basically a quiz and online course to prove to YouTube that you understand how copyright violations work. With time the strike will come down – it usually takes a few months though and the clock will reset every time that you get a new strike.
In addition to that, the person who owns the original material is the one that decides what happens to your content. They can choose whether it should be taken down, whether they should get the money from it and even if it can be watched in particular regions. Sometimes they can even put ads onto it to get monetization for themselves, regardless of whether you initially monetized it yourself.
YouTube Copyright and Music
Now that we have covered the bases, how does all of this work with music? Well, if you use copyrighted music then there are a couple of things that can happen. Ads may appear in the video if you use the copyrighted music, and you may actually be unable to monetize the video yourself. Sometimes the video may even be blocked in some countries or muted entirely. In particularly bad scenarios, your video may not even be visible to anyone except you.
You can often get away with using copyrighted music in videos if you have ads running in the video, as this is something that a lot of copyright owners are okay with.
You can sometimes see whether it’s okay to use a certain song on YouTube. For instance, it may tell you that the song cannot be used in a YouTube video. Alternatively, it may tell you that it’s okay to use the song so long as you allow advertising. The best way to check if you can use the video is to upload the video as private or unlisted and see if anything happens. If there are no issues then you can proceed to release the video to the public.
If you wish to monetize your covers or videos, then it’s a good idea to speak to the copyright owner and get the right license before using it in your video. As we have previously said though, in most cases it’s generally better either to write your own music or to use royalty-free music. You can find out more about YouTube’s copyright policies here.
Using Music In Marketing
As anyone that knows about marketing will tell you, music is pretty important. Music can make people feel emotions, and this is pretty important if you are trying to convince someone to buy a product or invest in a service.
Of course, if you are using video in order to market your product or service, then you have a slight problem – copyright. You can’t just use someone else’s music without permission, especially if you are using it for marketing purposes.
Naturally, music isn’t necessary for all content such as in animated explainer videos or in conference presentation recordings, but if you are looking to use music in your marketing campaign then that reassurance probably isn’t going to be particularly helpful to you.
Using music in marketing is complicated since you need to find the perfect song that encapsulates your brand and the message that you are trying to convey. Unfortunately, that’s not even the only thing that you need to consider if you want to be successful.
Selecting music for a campaign can be complicated because of copyright
With that in mind, there is one huge, glaring issue. You need music for your campaign in order to make it really shine, but what happens when that music is copyrighted? A real headache – that’s what. As we have already established, there’s a lot that goes into using copyrighted music. You need to make sure that you have asked for permission, which can be an arduous process in itself.
You can get penalized if you use copyrighted content in your marketing, and that does not look good on your company or on your brand. Before you use any third party content for your marketing, you need to ensure that it’s legal and okay for you to use it. Do you have a license to use it, for instance? If you have an in-house composer to write a quick jingle for you then you shouldn’t have a problem, but smaller companies may have a slightly harder time trying to do this.
Biggest issue with negotiating a license is time and money
Perhaps the biggest issue with using copyrighted music in your marketing campaign is the sheer amount of time and money it takes in order to get a license. This really is no joke!
For starters, you are going to need to speak to the publisher of the song and request permission. If the permission is granted then great, you can use it – but there will probably be a caveat.
Once all of that effort is done, you then usually need to speak to the right person in order to get the master license of the song. You can sometimes find this on the record label’s website, such as Sony Music if you are working with some particularly big projects.
And then your job isn’t done either. You are then going to have to pay a fee in most cases in order to use the music. After all, music artists make their living based on things like royalties. You will have a hard time getting someone to give you a license to use their song for free out of the kindness of their own hearts. Things generally just don’t work that way!
If you are marketing for a business, then you also need to consider the legal element of it too. You need to consider an asset management team that will deal with the licenses that you hold so you don’t get in any trouble later down the line by using third party content.
In order to use a third party song, you must primarily acquire a sync (synchronization) license from the publisher and the master license. That whole process in itself can be quite the challenge, let alone the additional stuff that you are going to need to do in order to ensure that your campaign is a success. It’s enough to make your head spin.
As such, if you aren’t quite prepared for the headache involved in acquiring copyrighted music, it may be time to shove Ed Sheeran to the side and venture into different avenues to get the right music for your marketing campaign.
Choose music that is already in public domain
Here’s your solution. Don’t spend 3 years trying to get an answer from Ed Sheeran and his record label to see if you can be the millionth company to use Thinking Out Loud in an ad. No – it’s simply not necessary. Instead, you can work smarter, not harder.
As we have already established, public domain music can be a real god send when it comes to making videos. This includes things like compositions and recordings that are past their copyright expiration dates. There’s nobody that’s going to berate you for using Mozart in your plumbing business advert, after all. Some songs can be great for your marketing and are also suitable for use because the copyright has expired.
There’s one thing to be aware of with this, of course. You should always check the copyright law in your particular country and state. This is because the laws can differ based on where you are. As such, the copyright expiration time can also differ depending on where you are. That’s not the only thing either. For instance, a composition by Beethoven created around 200 years ago is in the public domain, but the specific cover by the London Philharmonic Orchestra was only made back in 2019, so you can’t use that particular cover unless you ask for permission to do so. It’s important to keep that in mind – the original score may no longer be copyrighted, but the recording might be.
You can also use music that you can find under Creative Common license. If you have run marketing campaigns before then there’s a good chance that you may have heard of these licenses – they are also pretty useful for adding photos and other imagery that you have found online to marketing materials.
In essence, a creative commons license is when an artist has decided that they will share their music with the public without putting a price on it.
Of course, there are a lot of types of creative commons licenses on there so you need to make sure that you are reading the fine print before using a certain piece of work. Sometimes you may need to give credit to the original artist, you may not be able to use it in certain kinds of commercial projects, or you may also need to share the work under certain terms. There’s a chance that you may need to pay for the right kind of music for you too.
It’s worth pointing out, as mentioned earlier, that there are a lot of songs out there that you can find for free of charge. Sure, they’re useful, but nobody is going to be interested in your marketing materials if the quality isn’t there, and you may be taking a gamble by using music that doesn’t cost a thing. Sometimes it’s best to pay a little extra to ensure that you are getting the level of quality that you need. Searching through royalty free stock music can often be beneficial, won’t cost a lot, and you are also giving exposure to an up and coming artist that may really need the help.
So that’s everything that you need to know about how to use music without dealing with copyright infringement. As you can see, it can be a complicated process at times. There are a lot of hoops that you may need to jump through in order to use music that has been copyrighted by someone else. Where there is a will, there is a way though. You can always use royalty free music, things in the public domain or you could write your own music. With a little bit of patience and forethought, you are sure to find the perfect music for your work!