Copyright Lawyer: Tips on Using Music in Videos the Legal Way

Using music in videos is a very serious matter for artists because they like to copyright their work. If you use someone else’s music without their permission and if it is copyrighted, there can be major consequences that will require you to seek help of a copyright lawyer.

Tips on Using Music in Videos the Legal Way

Do you think that it is safe to sing and use music in videos that was made by other artists? The answer is no if the music is copyrighted, which is true in most cases.

Most musicians enjoy copyright on their work, and if you copy or use it for monetary benefits, then you are infringing upon their copyrights and are in violation of the laws. Copyright lawyers help clients apply for copyrights and represent them in disputes over copyrighted material.

Copyright is a form of legal protection to ensure artists, musicians, authors and similar creators have exclusive rights to their works. An important fact about copyright laws is that it protects only written and /or recorded expressions, it does not protect themes, ideas or concepts.

Copyrights can be jointly shared by one or more persons or in other words, anyone who has contributed to the piece of music or lyrics or video shares the copyright unless decided otherwise by the creators.

  • People who have copyrights can:
  • Reproduce their music in any form they choose
  • Distribute their music to anyone they choose
  • Display their work publicly anytime and any place they choose
  • Give public performances
  • Make remixes, compilations of their music

It is important to understand copyright laws so that you are not in trouble when you want to use a copyrighted audio in your video or will be using copyrighted music to help monetize your products. There is also something called the ‘fair use’ in which case you can use parts of the copyrighted material for educational purposes, news reporting and parody. If you do not follow the right guidelines then you could:

  • Be flagged in red in sites like YouTube for copyrights violation that are clearly spelled out in YouTube music rules.
  • Face criminal charges if you used a music audio without proper permissions and if the original owner files a case against you
  • Get a notice if you monetize copyrighted work as your own

ContentID is YouTube’s tracking system to determine if you are in violation of copyrighted material. This automated system matches your content with copyrighted material. You will receive a notification if your video is flagged by the system. You have the right to dispute but until such time your video could be blocked. You need to make sure that you check the usage rights before uploading videos.

It is often difficult to obtain permission for a copyrighted music since the rights may extend beyond the actual creator of the music. is a good source for distribution and can be used to check copyrights for music by artists.

What is the right thing to do?

Trying to determine who the owner of a TV show or movie is easy as you can get the information on their website or a google search will give you that information. It is even easy to determine the owner of a gaming website as the owner’s name comes up at the beginning or the end of the game. But, it gets quite tricky to determine the owner of a piece of music.

For example: if a bunch of artists came together to make a new song it is very difficult to determine who owns it. Whether it’s all the artists or the record label company or the person who wrote the music or the person who wrote the lyrics.

To obtain permission from the owners of copyrighted music you can follow the following steps:

  • Identify who the owner of the music is (the one that you want to use in your video)
  • Once you have determined the owner of the music go to their website and check the terms of use of their music publicly. In many cases even if you have obtained permission from the original owner you probably have to seek permission again from the record company who were the distributors of the music.
  • If you do not find terms of use on the website then you need to get in touch with the owner of the music through email (usually in their website) or their legal team or the PR team. They may also have an online form that you can fill out that helps you to get in touch with the owner.
  • The next step is where you contact the owner of the copyrighted music and ask them if it is OK to use their music in your video and if it is OK to monetize it.
  • The last step is to ask the owner to give you written permission which you can ask them to post on their website or send you the permission via email. This is important because when YouTube does a content ID search, it is able to check with the written permission.

Paul & Paul is Philadelphia’s most trusted copyright law office. If you’d like to know more about music copyrights give us a call at 866-975-7231 and get all your queries answered.


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