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 825,000 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. 

+Have a YouTube copyright question that isn’t answered here? Check out YouTube’s interactive Copyright Troubleshooter. 

Copyright Basics 

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: 

  1. Public Performance Right - the right to “perform” the music composition publicly. This right is administered by performing rights organizations (PROs) like ASCAP.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 

+Read more about copyright and rights management on YouTube

ASCAP & YouTube FAQs

  • YouTube for Content Uploaders
What does ASCAP have to do with YouTube?

ASCAP represents the public performance right for over 825,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers. YouTube pays ASCAP a licensing fee for the right to perform our members’ music in YouTube videos*. We then distribute those fees to ASCAP members as royalties. ASCAP operates on a not-for-profit basis, distributing all licensing fees we collect back to our songwriter, composer and publisher members, less only our operating expenses. We distribute 88 cents of every dollar we collect back to our members as royalties. If you added music that is in our musical repertory of over 16 works to your video, then you may get a notice indicating that we’re placing a copyright claim on your video on behalf of our members, so that they can earn their performance royalties.

*This excludes ASCAP music controlled by entities or individuals who have entered into direct deals with YouTube. 

What is Content ID?
YouTube uses a detection system called Content ID to identify specific recordings among the billions of videos that users have uploaded. Content ID makes digital "fingerprints" of sound recordings, and searches for that fingerprinted music whenever a video is uploaded. When a match is detected, YouTube sends notices to all of the copyright owners it knows about - typically record labels and music publishers, or their designated agents. 

Please note that Content ID is a proprietary software system created and owned by YouTube. ASCAP has no control over how it functions. If you have a dispute related to an ASCAP claim, please file your dispute with YouTube directly through your dashboard. 

+Click here for more in-depth info about YouTube Content ID and Content ID claims
I got permission from the owner(s) of the music to use their music in my video. Why did I get a notice that ASCAP is putting a copyright claim on it?

Your license from the owner of the musical composition may have granted you a mechanical or synch license to use his or her work in your video, but not a public performance license, which would generally only be granted to the entity who is actually publicly performing the music (in this case, YouTube). The notice you received is intended to inform you that the musical composition in your video, or a share of that composition, is owned by an ASCAP member and that the public performance rights are covered by ASCAP’s license with YouTube. 

Remember that Content ID is created and owned by YouTube. ASCAP has no control over how it functions. If you have a dispute related to an ASCAP claim, please file your dispute directly with YouTube through your dashboard. 

I uploaded my original music to YouTube. Why am I receiving a Content ID claim from ASCAP? 

When ASCAP music is identified in a video, Content ID will automatically place a claim on behalf of ASCAP members. If you are an ASCAP member and an ASCAP claim is placed on a video containing music that you own, then the royalties collected from this claim will be distributed to you and (if applicable) to the other ASCAP songwriters and publishers who co-own the music, subject to ASCAP’s survey and distribution rules.

If another party (e.g. a record label) owns the sound recording of the music that you uploaded, then you will likely receive additional claim notices as those parties collect royalties for sound recording rights.

The music I used in my video was written by music creators from outside the US. Why is ASCAP claiming they represent it?

ASCAP has reciprocal agreements with PROs around the world. We represent their local music for US performances, and they represent ASCAP music for performances in their territories. When a song written or co-written by an ASCAP-licensed foreign writer is played in the US, we collect the performance data and royalties, then send them back to the local PRO for distribution to the foreign writers of the song.

Performance rights are territorial, and the owners/administrators of a musical work can change depending on where it is performed. If you have received a Content ID claim from ASCAP, it was only for YouTube views that originated in the US. You may also receive claims from other companies that represent the music in other territories.

Why was my video blocked or removed?

Copyright owners - e.g. the songwriters, composers and music publishers of the musical composition and the record labels and artists of the sound recording, etc. - can decide whether to allow you to use their music in your videos. Some owners may decide to block or remove the video instead of placing ads on it.

ASCAP will not generally ask YouTube to block a video without the express request of one of ASCAP's members, but it is fully within our members’ rights to ask us to block a video that uses their music without permission. Keep in mind, the music you used may be represented by multiple parties such as publishers, labels or PROs - if your video is blocked, then it is possible that the request did not come from ASCAP.

What do I do if I disagree with a Content ID claim placed on my video? 

You can investigate and dispute claims through YouTube’s dispute process. Your YouTube dashboard displays a list of any copyright notices you have received.

+Read more about disputing a YouTube Content ID claim

Just remember that Content ID is created, owned and controlled by YouTube. ASCAP has no control over how it functions. While Content ID is not perfect, it is currently the only system YouTube offers for monetizing music in YouTube videos.

What if I have a question that wasn’t answered here?

Visit YouTube’s interactive Copyright Troubleshooter for help with your specific situation.