FAQs for YouTube Content Uploaders
So you want to use music in your YouTube video? You’re in good company. Every minute, users upload 300 hours of video to YouTube, and a whole lot of it contains music. By all means, do it! Before you hit the “Upload” button though, consider that there’s a songwriter or composer who created it who relies on income from all the different uses of their music for a livelihood. Remember: every time you upload a video, you are agreeing to YouTube’s Terms of Service - including the part that says that “you own or have the necessary licenses, rights, consents, and permissions to publish Content you submit.” That means music, too.
ASCAP is a membership association of over 790,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers. As a performing rights organization (PRO), our our main role is to make sure that our members get fairly paid when their music is performed publicly. We work within YouTube’s proprietary Content ID system to identify ASCAP members’ music in the billions of hours of videos that users watch on YouTube every day. Content ID is not perfect, but it is the only system that YouTube makes available for monetizing music in YouTube videos. We believe that through ASCAP's participation, we can improve the metadata in Content ID, which will benefit our members and other rightsholders. Video creators included!
We know it can be frustrating to post a video that you’ve worked on for days, only to have it flagged or blocked because of a Content ID claim. You can avoid all that hassle if you understand some basics of music copyright, and how the YouTube claiming system works.
To fully understand how royalties flow for YouTube plays, you first need to know the difference between a music composition and a sound recording.
- The music composition refers to an underlying song or piece of music, encompassing the lyrics, melody, harmony, etc. The rights to a musical composition are owned by the creators (songwriters, composers, lyricists) and their publisher(s). For example, there might be thousands of different recordings of “Over the Rainbow,” but its writers Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen, and their publisher Sony/ATV, are the sole owners of the composition.
- The sound recording refers to a specific recording of a composition onto a CD, digital file, vinyl record, etc. There can be thousands of different recordings of a single composition, and each one may have a different owner. The copyright in a sound recording is controlled by whoever owns the master recording, usually a record label.
There are three types of rights you should know about if you want to use a musical composition in your YouTube video:
- Public Performance Right - the right to “perform” the music composition publicly. This right is administered by performing rights organizations (PROs) like ASCAP.
- Mechanical Right - the right to record/copy and distribute (without visual images) a composition. Traditionally, this right applied to physical media like CDs and vinyl but it also applies to digital media. Mechanical rights are administered by a variety of companies including HFA, or directly from the music publisher.
- Synchronization Right - A synchronization (or "synch") right involves the right to record/copy and distribute a recording of a musical work in audio-visual form: as part of a film, TV program, music video, or YouTube video. Synch rights are licensed by the music publisher (for the composition) and sound recording owner to the producer of the movie or program.