Connect With Us

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner




« The Taylor Swift Factor | Main | MusicThinkTank Weekly Recap: 4 Tips for Creating Shareable, Watchable Video Content »

How to Legally Use Music to Enhance YouTube Videos

Quick: go to YouTube and do a search for the song “Little Red Corvette” by Prince, one of his biggest hits ever. You'll find a few results, but click to play them and all you'll get is a muted video. That's because Prince, for lack of a better term, despises the Internet and those who share his music without permission. He not only has any and all uploads of his music removed or muted by YouTube, but recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against 22 individuals for sharing bootlegged copies of his concerts.

Laws and regulations surrounding copyrighted materials changed forever when the Internet became mainstream in the late 1990s. File-sharing platforms like Napster, Limewire and Kazaa were all either ordered to shut down by federal judges or completely reconstruct their sharing models in the last decade because of copyright violations. It's important for musicians, marketers and others who use YouTube to promote a product to understand 21st century copyright laws and how it can effect them if they do not follow certain procedures.

DMCA and Fair Use

The so-called dotcom boom began in 1997, which meant new laws were necessary to both protect intellectual property and prevent unauthorized broadcast of studio material. President Bill Clinton signed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) into law in October 1998. It basically added digital media to already existing copyright laws contained in Title 17 of U.S. Code. The Act also created criminal punishments that include fines up to $10,000 and/or a year imprisonment for deliberate copyright violations.

The mainstreaming of the Internet in the late 1990s also caused the concept of fair use to be scrutinized by federal courts. The Copyright Act of 1976 defines fair use as the utilization of copyrighted material for the purpose of criticism, comment, teaching and/or reporting. The Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate the length of time authors, inventors and others have exclusive rights to their works.

The Internet muddied the waters of fair use, which forced the U.S. Supreme Court to address the issue in several cases, including the 2012 decision in Golan v. Holder. The court ruled that previously public foreign works were no longer free to use pursuant to the Uruguay Round Agreement Act of 1994. There are several other similar cases pending in appeals courts all across the country.

What This Means for You

Despite all the legal mumbo jumbo surrounding copyrights and dissemination of music on the Internet, there are several simple, common and legal workarounds. Documentary filmmakers and other videographers can still use copyrighted materials to a certain extent.

It's best to either place a fair use disclaimer in either the video description or at the beginning of the video for a few seconds. It should read something like, “the fair use of this media, pursuant to Title 17, Sec. 107, is for the purpose of criticism, teaching and/or comment and thus does not violate copyright law.” Use only a portion of copyrighted material and not the entire work. This combination will at least prevent YouTube from immediately removing your video at the request of the copyright holder, and force them to prove a violation.

Another option is to simply use stock music. Services like Shutterstock offer thousands of copyright-free music beds for a small fee. The most popular video editing programs, like Apple's Final Cut Pro and Avid, include royalty-free music as part of the software. There are also thousands of musicians and other content creators who publish their work online and allow anyone to use it as long as you properly credit them.

Copyright laws can be difficult to read through, but are actually fairly simple to work around. Federal courts are constantly reviewing cases pertaining to fair use and copyright laws, so make certain to pay attention to any major changes that may arise.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>