Youtube is the single largest and most popular video sharing and streaming website on the Internet. Millions of people use it every day to upload videos of all kinds, from home movies of their cats to short films. If you are making videos for your company or business, you need to be uploading them to YouTube.

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However, there are many copyright issues and rules you need to be aware of for YouTube, especially when it comes to the music you use. Potential copyright violations can be intimidating if you aren’t familiar with the laws that apply to your video and this especially applies to audio use. Many people don’t even realise they are breaking a copyright law until their video gets pulled down.

Using content that is 100% original is the easiest way to avoid copyright infringement. You should ask yourself whether your use of the music is stepping on the ability of the creator to make money from the work.

If music is in the public domain, you don’t have to secure special permission to use it. The rule states, “Any Song or Musical Work Published in 1922 or Earlier is in the Public Domain in the USA. No Sound Recordings are PD in the USA due to a tangled complexity of Federal and State Law”. If music is not in the public domain, meaning published after 1922, you need to acquire a license to use it, sometimes two.


If you do use work that is not original or that you didn’t pay for, you can see the repercussions in the following ways:

  • Your account can receive a strike. If you get three strikes, you can be banned from YouTube.
  • The music on your video can be shut off, which will greatly affect the quality of the overall project.
  • YouTube may place ads over your videos which will benefit the original artist of the music you used.
  • The owner of the music you used can sue you.

What About Royalty Free Music?

Original royalty free music is much easier to work with than non-public domain music, but you still need permission. This permission is easy to obtain by anyone. You want to use royalty free music because it is cheap and you don’t need to pay fees or penalties each time you use it. Some of the best royalty free music can be found on and includes various styles, from Corporate to Cinematic to Electronic.

If you are making a marketing video for your business or company, the video counts as something you are making money from. A lot of free stock music is only licensed for personal use; promo videos for your brand are not personal. Using original music or music you paid for is the only way to avoid legal action or getting your account flagged by YouTube. Even if you didn’t enable ads or make money directly through YouTube, if you’re cultivating business through the video, it still counts.

If possible, always use original music and always pay the original artist what you owe them to use it.

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