Can I Use Copyrighted Music on YouTube? How to Avoid Copyright?

Being one of the leading sites for viewing online videos, YouTube deals with many issues in a day. One of the serious issues is copyrighted music when it comes to uploaded video content, including vlogs.

From uploads of 500 hours of video to the platform every minute, YouTube usually finds itself dealing with copyright issues right, left, and center.

The matter is grieving that, according to Pex, 84% of YouTube content contains at least 10 seconds of copyrighted music.


Can you use copyrighted music on YouTube?

Yes, you could use copyrighted music on YouTube if you go the legal way and contact the owner of the copyrighted content or record label and obtain a license from them.

There is also another option of purchasing a royalty-free license. The best place to get such music is from YouTube‘s Audio library or in the Public domain.

However, ensure you double-check if the music can be used. If you are in the US, confirm if the music has lost copyright protection, which means the song was published in 1925 or before that.

Nevertheless, if you are in other parts of the world, make sure you check your country‘s copyright laws and regulations when it comes to using music.

What Happens if I Use Copyrighted Music on YouTube?

Every music owner has a right to earn from their hard work and that is why YouTube has put into place an effective copyright system, which is known as Content ID.

This system helps music owners protect their work as well as allow other creators to use their music in YouTube videos.

That is where your question comes in.

Well, the system scans videos every time they are uploaded to detect if the video contains any illegal copyrighted music.

Unfortunately, if it detects any music, you will definitely get a copyright claim.

 These usually result in either:

  • Advertisements appearing in your video
  • The video is blocked in some countries or worldwide
  • The video is blocked on certain devices such as mobile phones
  • Your video is muted
  • You can’t monetize the video
  • In extreme cases, the video is permanently removed from YouTube as per the owner‘s request. This is known as a takedown notice and is an official legal action that usually leads to a strike on your YouTube channel.

Can I Monetize YouTube Videos That Have Copyright Claim?

Yes and No.

Sounds confusing?

Vear with me as I explain in detail.

No, you cannot monetize YouTube videos that have copyright claims if you have not legally obtained a license to use the music, even if it is only for 10 seconds.

YouTube uses a system called Content ID to check for any unauthorized music used. If you happen to use any music without the owner‘s consent, you immediately get a copyright claim.

Once you get a copyright claim on your channel, you can either be punished by receiving a copyright strike, or the owner can place adverts on your video and earn income from it.

On the other hand, you can monetize YouTube videos that have copyright claim only if you have secured yourself a sync license.

This is basically a contract that details what song you are using in your video, the owner of the song, how you would like to use the song, and the exchange that takes place that will enable you to use the song.

Note that you can personally contact all the copyright owners to arrange the deal or use the available websites which handle the sync licensing and paperwork.

Nonetheless, even if you have all the legal documents, you might receive a copyright claim on your video. Generally, that happens if the song still runs in the Content ID.

So, what do you do when this happens?  

Dispute the claim by proving your license agreement to YouTube. Also, contact the company through which you received the license.

When the matter is settled, the claim will be released and your video will be monetized, including any money earned while the copyright claim was on.

Can I Use Copyrighted Music on YouTube If I Don’t Monetize?

It is not wise to use copyrighted music on YouTube even if you intend not to monetize it.

  • According to the U.S copyright, it is illegal to use any content you don’t have rights to.
  • Also, YouTube has strict rules about illegal music since it violates their Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.

But mind you, if you still go ahead and use the copyrighted music without the owner‘s permission, you will get a notification specifying the next step.

This is determined by the owner‘s decision, which is monetized from your video by running advertisements. Others include muting the video or stripping it, blocking it, or even submitting a video’s formal takedown.

Unfortunately, the takedown results in a copyright strike on your account.

Can I Play Copyrighted Music on YouTube Live Stream?

Can I Play Copyrighted Music on YouTube Live Stream?

No, you are advised against playing copyrighted music on YouTube live stream if you have not legally obtained it.

Just like other uploaded YouTube videos, live broadcasts also scan for copyrighted music.

If any music is identified, a temporary still image may replace your live broadcast until the YouTube system no longer detects it.

In any case, if you refuse to remove the copyrighted music from your live broadcast, YouTube has a right to terminate it. This usually happens if you had earlier received a copyright strike or community Guideline strike from YouTube.

If you get three copyright strikes, your YouTube channel will be closed indefinitely.

Unfortunately, this will lead to the loss of subscribers and viewers, YouTube monetization, brand deals, affiliate marketing and just to mention a few.

But wait, before you start to panic, it is important to note that before the live broadcast is replaced with a still image or terminated, you will be warned. YouTube will warn you to stop broadcasting until you remove the copyrighted content.

If you comply and deal with the issue, the broadcast will be allowed to continue. However, if you refuse to remove the music, your live stream will be temporarily stopped or terminated, thus leading to losing access to the live stream.


You can play copyrighted music on YouTube live stream if you have the necessary rights to the song.

Don't forget you might temporarily get a still image when broadcasting since the song might have gone through the Content ID system. Therefore, if you receive the interruption, request the owner of the song to whitelist your channel to enable you to use the song/songs for future broadcasts.

What to Do When You Get a Copyright Claim on YouTube?

There are several scenarios where you could get a copyright claim on YouTube.

Two scenarios:

  • The claim was made in error
  • You used somebody else’s song in your own video

If the claim was made in error and you can prove 100% that you have rights to your video’s content, then go ahead and file a dispute.

Keep in mind, you need to understand how the public domain works first before you dispute the claim.

If you got the content from the public domain or from fair use policy, decide whether to dispute the claim or not as YouTube can’t help you in any decision-making.

Therefore, if you are not sure of the way forward, seek legal advice first before disputing the claim. When you go ahead with the dispute, the copyright owner has 30 days to respond.

How to Dispute a YouTube Copyright Claim?

  1. Go to YouTube Studio and sign in;
  2. Select Content from the left side of the menu and search for the copyrighted video;
  3. Under the restriction section, find the copyright claim and click on the details section;
  4. Click on Dispute;
  5. Submit your dispute and wait for the copyright owner to respond within 30 days.
Point to Note Before Submitting the Dispute:
  • The original musician can agree with the dispute, thus enabling you to continue monetizing the video.
  • In the dispute process, you and the claimant have the choice to continue monetizing the video.
  • The owner can disagree with your claim. However, if you still believe it was a mistake, you can appeal their decision.
  • After the owner upholds the claim, you can request YouTube to take down the video from your channel. Unfortunately, this move will lead to a copyright strike on your account.
  • The claimed copyright owner might not respond within 30 days to the dispute. If it happens, don’t do anything, the claim on the video will automatically expire.
  • Lastly, remember it is wise to dispute if you have all the necessary rights to the music or have the right papers to prove you are legally entitled to use the music. This is to prevent results in penalties against your video or channel.

In the other scenario, if you have used somebody else’s song in your own video and received a copyright claim, you just have to live with it. As long as you don’t have a valid license, be ready for the consequences.

How to Avoid Copyright and Use Copyrighted Music on YouTube Legally

How to Avoid Copyright and Use Copyrighted Music on YouTube Legally?

There are three ways how you can use copyrighted music on YouTube:

  • Using music found in the public domain
  • Get a written document  from the owner of the music
  • Use a Creative Commons Music license

More in-depth about each method:

a) Use The Music Found in the Pond5 Public Domain

One of the popular platforms when it comes to content creators. Music in the Pond5 public domain is free to use for anyone and any reason.

Whether for commercial use, corporate presentation, retail shops, elevators, among other places, you will find a massive list of songs.

Though you are not allowed to obtain any music without any legal authorization, all compositions not protected under the copyright domain are found in the public domain. That means you can use the music in any way you like as long it is under the public domain.

Just keep in mind, although there is a large amount of copyright-free music online, it does not mean the songs are automatically public domain. Double-check the music you want to use to avoid YouTube strikes, temporary or permanent blockage of your YouTube video.

To easily research if the music is in the public domain, there are simple steps you need to follow.

1. First and foremost, search Wikipedia for the song title.
2. Give the site some time to search the song.
3. If the song publication date is before 1925, you will definitely find it in the public domain.

However, if you don’t find the song on Wikipedia, you can also search at and or simply Google the song.

b) Get a Written Document  from the Owner of the Music

Not all songs are in the public domain, but that should not discourage you when it comes to getting the best music for your YouTube video.

Another great way to use music on YouTube legally is to get a written document from the music owner.

There are a few steps to get permission to use copyrighted music from your favorite artist.

  • First of all, determine if you need a license to use the music.
  • If you need one, research everything needed to acquire the license.
  • Next, contact the owner and anyone else involved in the copyrights.
  • Acquire the license or licenses depending on the people involved in the copyright music.

c) Use a Creative Commons License

Determined to make it easier for other video creators, some YouTubers have obtained a Creative Commons license for reuse.

This simply means YouTube allows video creators to mark their commercial or non-commercial videos with a CC BY license. All this is possible with the Video Edition.

The good news is that when you use Creative Commons content, the owner of the music is automatically credited through your content.

Keep in mind, it is important to know which kind of Creative Common (CC) license works for you. The reason being, different CC licenses let you do different things.

So, what are the steps to take as a video creator to find Creative Common content on YouTube?

  1. First off, do a search on YouTube and find the filter options, click on the result page;
  2. Select Creative Commons under the features section. In this section, you will find all the videos licensed under CC;
  3. Choose the music of your liking.
Point to Note:

To access the CC licenses, the content must be 100% original and not have any Content ID claim.

However, if you don’t find your favorite song on YouTube, you can still search other platforms such as Vimeo or SpinXpress.

Where To Find YouTube Copyright-Free Music List?

Most likely, every YouTuber is searching for the perfect background music for their content. As you might have experienced before, it is not easy to find quality music for your content.

Fortunately, there are a dozen of websites that offer millions of songs for YouTubers to choose their favorite songs from.

Here are the most popular websites offering licensing options for the best background music on your vlogs, streams, and other YouTube videos.

YouTube Audio Library

YouTube Audio Library offers free (public domain) and Creative Commons licenses, YouTube has more than 150,000 free music songs.

You will be spoilt for choice with all sorts of genres, instruments, attributes, mood, and even duration songs.

If you are unsure where to start, go to the popularity filter and view the most downloaded songs. YouTube allows its users to use royalty-free music to download, remix, or use for creative projects.

Epidemic Sound

 Unlimited royalty-free license, Epidemic Sound is another great place to find high-quality music for your YouTube content. Ideal for beginners as well as experts, the ever-growing library has over 30,000 tracks and double the number when it comes to sound effects.

This enables composers and creators to get everything they need by using only one license.

Keep in mind, prices start from $0.99, and subscriptions start at $12/month.


A subscription-based platform, AudioBlocks has unlimited royalty-free music meant for personal and commercial projects.

Equipped with a powerful search feature, lovers of instrumental loops and sound effects will get fresh tracks for their content.

Just pick a subscription plan and get unlimited access to their tracks all the time.


If you prefer to use music that sounds more like real music, SoundCloud has you covered.

With most songs licensed under Creative Commons, you only need to follow the guidelines to use the song of your choice.

Getty Images

A renowned stock image platform, Getty Images have one of the largest licensing catalogs in the world.

Now powered by Epidemic Sound, the platform provides royalty-free background music for all YouTube video creators.

Having different subscription plans, you will have copyright clearance to use any song with confidence as long you are within the terms of the agreement.


The first platform to have legally shared royalty-free music, Jamendo consists of an open community of independent artists and video creators.

Created to give back to the community, the platform has more than 500,000 royalty-free music provided by 40,000 artists from 150 countries. Interesting right?

That is not all though, apart from being ideal for video creators, the platform also allows marketers to pick whatever song suits them.

Business chains are not left behind as they get a special program for the right radio station for their stores. Note that the standard licensing starts at $49.


Incompetech has a large selection of royalty-free music that covers around 2,000 tracks.

From blues, rock to classic, among others, the music is free, although they have a standard music license option. In addition, you can get beats from Africa and Brazil as well.

Created by Kevin MacLeod, the main reason for the platform is to bring together artists, video content creators as well as individuals. All that is required is to credit the musicians and the site –  if possible, donate a minimum of $5.

However, if you want to download the entire music library, it will cost you a one-off fee of $38.


So let’s summarize the topic can you use copyrighted music for YouTube videos and vlogs?

As you can see, no matter how long you are going to use copyrighted music, either 5, 15, or 30 seconds, you need to get permission or use free music for YouTube videos.

Just make sure you follow the rules and guidelines above and you will be good when it comes to copyrighted music.

So, before we go, let us recap on the most important points to take away.

  • It is possible to use copyrighted music as long you have legally obtained it. These include using the public domain or Creative Commons license or legally obtaining a license from the musician.
  • It is illegal to monetize music or any other content if you don’t obtain permission from the original musician.
  • Your YouTube channel might be suspended or terminated indefinitely, especially if you receive 3 copyright strikes.
  • There are so many platforms to find music to use on YouTube. All you have to do is determine which is royalty-free, domain, or Creative Common.
  • Royalty-free music allows you to pay for the music license only once for as long as you need.
  • Public domain entails all works not protected by copyright, thus giving you permission to use it without paying the original artist.
  • Creative Commons is also free to the public and gives YouTube creators a chance to use or distribute copyrighted work. The best thing about it is that artists get the credit for the work they deserve.
  • Always remember to double-check if the music can be used and ensure you follow all the terms and regulations from YouTube as well as other platforms.

Glen Beker

Glen Beker

I am Glen and I’m a 100% tech-addicted guy, Blogger, Video Editor and Entrepreneur. I spent a lot of my time learning how to properly edit videos, I've tested a lot of vlogging equipment and now with my team, I share all these tips with you.