Wednesday, 11 March 2015

How To Use Copyrighted Music In YouTube Videos

With news emerging of Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams having to pay out a massive $7.4 million to the family of late Marvin Gaye, for the apparent breach in copyright with the song "Blurred Lines", it emphasises just how serious (and costly) copyright infringement is, especially in the world of music.
 
Personally, I think it’s quite dangerous that artists can now be sued if they take inspiration over a vibe or influence, especially as these days music-wise, pretty much everything’s been done – it must be difficult to come up with something that doesn’t sound similar to content produced by someone else. I love chart music, but even I can recognise that 80% of stuff released sounds the same these days.
 
The thing is, the music industry is known for its heavyweights that come down on people like a tonne of bricks at the slightest hint of copyright infringement or music piracy. Firms like Warner Music, Sony BMG, EMI and Universal, in particular, seem to epitomise greedy American corporate culture in the music business. You can tell these firms are unable to reconcile an age of sharing online with music production, because of its potential to hit their profits hard.

As such, sites like YouTube find themselves in an awkward position between appeasing the major record labels, and still being current and engaging with (and not penalising) its users, without which the site wouldn’t have its mass worldwide appeal, as well as providing a readymade target audience to receive adverts.
 
Which is how this story relates to me.

So, I’ve gotten into the habit of making these cheesy post-holiday travel-montages, often playing to a decent song to make the whole thing a little less sappy. I've used a few copyright songs in my videos before and never had a problem - they just get identified, flagged as third party content and then linked to iTunes.

But when I uploaded a video using the song "Flashback" by Calvin Harris, it was promptly banned due to a "copyright claim by SME/Ultra Music" (bless YouTube, they did offer to strip the song and provided a list of royalty-free music I could use instead, which was quite nice).
 
Sure, I know using copyrighted music is dicey business. But I was confused as to why this video in particular was getting blocked, when I've used chart/popular music before?

I read some stuff online about how you contest the block by arguing about "fair use" in the media but frankly, it’s a cheesy amateur home movie, not some masterpiece with a political statement, so it hardly seemed worth fighting for.
 
It was more annoying because my song choices play a part in how I edit my videos. I did consider using some naff covers I found online, but they just reminded me of my retail days; I once worked in a store that used to use cover versions of songs (that sounded like bad karaoke), instead of the actual songs.

Since certain songs result in a block but others don’t, if you decide to re-upload the video with another song, you don’t know if that’s going to result in a block either.
 
Luckily, YouTube seems to have recognised the problem and have come up with a solution, having also recognised that:

"Great videos deserve a great soundtrack" - YouTube Creator Studio Blog
 
In short, you can use the "Ad-Supported Music" feature in the YouTube creator panel to see which popular, mainstream songs are likely to get your video blocked, and which ones won’t.
 
 ad-supported-music-youtube-image
 
Some artists/record labels will choose to exercise the right to block your video in most parts of the world if you use their songs:  
 
ad-supported-music-youtube-image
While others are a little more relaxed:
 
ad-supported-music-you-tube-image








It’s good because you can now know beforehand if you’re going to have problems when you upload a video - handy if the soundtrack to your video affects how you edit it. However, it’s not a viable option if you’re a professional YouTuber and monetize your content – if your video ends up being popular and you decide to run adverts, the revenue would go to the copyright owner of the song in the video. In that instance you’re better off using royalty-free, as opposed to popular, music.

But for people like me, who just want to just make harmless, fun videos that will probably only be watched by about 5 people worldwide, it seems ideal.

This whole thing has left a very bad taste in my mouth, however. You can go from being a fan of the artist, to a hater. Sure, music artists have a right to protect work they’ve produced, especially when it’s now so easy to rip music off YouTube videos by converting them into mp3s. But in an age of digital communication, if they’re trying to control how people share their content online, I think they’re fighting a losing battle. And it’s funny how they do sometimes encourage you to share (but not use) their content...when it aids their marketing campaigns, of-course.

5 comments:

  1. Very useful tutorial, thanks for sharing. I often create different advertising videos so I need good music backgrounds for it. Want to share with you one free background music storage http://melodyloops.com/ this is the best free background music website, I've ever use. Try to and I'm sure you'll like it. Good luck.

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    Replies
    1. Hi thanks for dropping by. Glad you found the post useful and thanks for sharing the link - I think content creators who do it as a hobby will always appreciate a free source of royalty-free music :)

      - Lubna

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