How to give copyright credit for music on YouTube

According to the official rules of YouTube, you can’t simply take somebody’s content and use it as your own. All the owners and authors that work with YouTube must know how to receive and give copyright credits for the content secured by authors’ rights. Besides that, you need to know how to give copyright credit for music on YouTube and be aware of the consequences of using someone’s private content.

When the permission from the copyright holder is necessary

If you want to upload a video to YouTube, check if it does not violate other people's copyrights. To do this, examine all the components of your video: music (including background), video clips, photos, and so on. Then contact the rights holders or their representatives and discuss the license terms.

Usually, licenses allow content to be used with some restrictions. For example, they may be non-exclusive, not extend to all rights, limited by a certain territory or for a certain period, and so on. Be sure to consult a lawyer if you want to enter into a license agreement. Then you will know exactly what you can do with the material provided, and what rights remain available only to the owner.

Even if you shot the video yourself, it does not necessarily mean that you have all the rights to it. For example, if you recorded a concert, the rights to this recording belong to the performer, the recording studio or the publisher of the music albums. Please note that even if you purchased content (for example, a song in iTunes), you still cannot use it in your videos without permission from the copyright holder. YouTube offers authors to use the music library - a free collection of music tracks and sound effects that can be added to videos.

Some users think that they can record a cover version of someone else’s song without a license. However, it is not. If you want to publish your cover version, you need to discuss this issue with the copyright holder. To use part of the original recording or add subtitles with the lyrics, you may need additional licenses.

Principles of fair use

This is a legal concept according to which in some situations you can use someone else’s materials without obtaining special permission from the copyright holder. Before submitting a copyright infringement complaint, rights holders should consider whether their case is in fair use. This term and its components can be understood in different countries in different ways.

Based on several principles, judges determine if a particular case applies to fair use. A positive verdict is usually made in cases of creative processing of protected content to create videos with explanations, reviews, scientific and educational videos, as well as news stories.  The definition of fair use or fair business practice depends on the specific country and its laws. In the United States, fair use is determined by the judge, evaluating each case on the four criteria listed below:

  • how and for what materials are used, for example, for educational purposes or for income;

  • what is the essence of copyrighted work;

  • the size and significance of the fragment used in relation to all copyrighted work;

  • the result of using protected materials for a potential market or copyright holder's income.

Your video may not comply with these principles, even if you indicate who owns the rights of the content, or you write that you refuse to commitments. The statement that the downloaded content is intended “for entertainment purposes only” may also not protect you when testing for good faith. Even if you "dilute" someone else's content with your own, this does not guarantee that your case corresponds to this concept. Therefore, carefully review all four criteria listed above, and if you have any questions, consult with a lawyer.

There are quite a few videos on YouTube that follow fair use guidelines. Sometimes rights holders themselves forget about these principles and ask YouTube to remove videos in which their content is used without permission, but it does not violate the rules. Therefore, rights holders also need to know about these four criteria. For example, the author could alter the source content so much that it no longer coincides with the original material at all. Such cases are often parodies and criticism.

How to open license

If the copyright holder has published his work under a Creative Commons license, then under certain conditions other authors may use it. There are over four million such videos on YouTube. If you wish, you can include them in your videos absolutely free.

In the YouTube Creative Studio, you can indicate that a particular video is published under a CC-BY license. This will mean that the video is allowed to be used for any purpose, including commercial, with two restrictions. First, you retain copyright on your content, and secondly, your name must appear in the derivative works.

Public domain

Copyright protects works for a specific period of time. Its duration depends on the place and time of publication, as well as on who created the content. When the copyright laws stop to protect works, they become public domain. After that, materials are available to all. There is no official list of works that have become public domain. So do not forget to check the content you are going to use. It may be still protected by the copyright even if the content was made decades ago.

YouTube made sure the rights of owners are protected there. And you need to make sure that your content does not violate them as well. Before you will put third-party art, video, texts or music even to the background, search for the owners of the materials and find out if you can receive permission to use it. Don’t forget to give credits for music. If you are not sure of what to do and whether you need this permission, put yourself on the opposite side and imagine your reaction.