How To Know If A Song Is Copyrighted Or Not? - 2022 Guide

If there is something that platforms like YouTube or Twitch have brought, it is the ease of creating content, uploading it and sharing it with other users. On many occasions, these contents are accompanied by music (in the background or in the foreground), to make them more attractive. However, not all music can be used freely in the projects we share on the Network, since any theme or song may be subject to copyright. In this article we are going to explain how to know if a song is copyrighted, to avoid problems.

First, when we talk about copyright, we are referring to copyright, copyright is the Anglo-Saxon designation given to intellectual property rights. Thus, copyright is the copyright of a song, that is, the rights that its creator has over it.

Once the meaning of copyright is established, if you are going to start creating videos to upload to the Internet, regardless of the platform on which you are going to do it, you should know that practically all songs are copyrighted. In addition, it is not even necessary to register songs in the Intellectual Property Registry for this to be the case, because, as with books, copyright in music arises at the very moment of the creation of the song or piece of music.

Now, as we are going to see in the following points, there are different types of copyright that can be applied to songs and that will allow their use or not for free or without the need to attribute authorship. For this reason, whenever we are going to make a video, a commercial presentation, etc., it is important to know if a music is copyrighted , to ensure that we do not infringe the copyright of a song and to be able to be sued for it.

Royalty Free Music

Royalty-free music is one that we can use without the need to attribute authorship. The usual thing is to find it on download web pages created for its distribution. They are original pieces, usually of good quality, that can be used for any type of purpose, including commercial or video monetization.

Now, just because it’s royalty-free doesn’t mean it’s free; Most of these download sites work on a monthly subscription model, which gives you access to their entire music catalogue.

Public domain

Public domain music is music whose copyright has already expired. In Spain, the Intellectual Property Law establishes that copyright ends 70 years after the death of the author, from that moment on, music becomes public domain and anyone can use it.

At this point you have to be careful with the copyright of record labels, since they may have the rights to the recordings that were made of those songs in their studios. Or later versions.

This is because in music there is, on the one hand, copyright over the composition and lyrics, and, on the other hand, over the sound recording. This means that while the copyright of the original song (composition and lyrics) may be in the public domain, the actual recording of that song by label X (with the corresponding sound and arrangements) still retains its copyright.

Creative Commons Songs

Finally, we have the Creative Commons (CC) licenses for songs. These are different types of licenses that allow, under a series of conditions, to use songs for free, since their authors make them available to users.

There are different types of Creative Commons licenses, some allow commercial use, while others do not, therefore, if you are going to use a song under a CC license, you must first consult the conditions of its use.

How to know if a song is copyrighted?

Now that you know what types of copyrights a song can have, you may be wondering how to know if songs are copyrighted before using them.

The first and most important thing, if the song is a current theme and by a well-known artist, who is also under a record label, be sure that this song is subject to copyright and you will not be able to use it freely in your projects, especially those that you intend to upload to the Internet (and that includes home videos and those that are not for commercial or monetization purposes).

The fact that you have purchased a song or a CD or are subscribed to a music streaming platform does not give you the right to use that song in your projects or play it publicly for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

The problem of determining whether or not a song has copyright is complicated by lesser-known topics, which forces us to visit the original source (the author himself) or the platform from which we downloaded the song whenever possible, to check the type of license you have, to find out if we can use it and under what conditions.

Next we will see how to know if a song is copyrighted in certain cases.

I found a music video on YouTube

YouTube is a video playback platform that many artists use to make themselves known. That is why it is easy to think that that music video that you have found on the platform of that unknown artist, you can use it freely, but it is not like that. We have already said that the songs are practically all copyrighted.

But it is also true that we can find royalty-free music on the platform, many times its creators only ask to attribute the authorship and put a link to their page, profile or work.

So how do you know if a song is copyrighted on YouTube ? The truth is that YouTube, since the entry into force of the European copyright law and the North American DMCA, has made things quite easy and it is a procedure that works without the need for user intervention, unless it is necessary to make a claim or withdraw a content.

YouTube identifies pieces of copyrighted music that a video may contain and presents them in YouTube Studio, in the “Content” list, under the “Restrictions” label. This is the Content ID claim.

This claim alerts us that a piece of music in our video has been claimed for copyright (it can be the original author or the record label or a copyright collective management entity). Depending on the type of license, YouTube will tell us what happens to that video.

To do this, it uses three pieces of information:

  • Impact on the rights claim channel
  • Visibility
  • Monetization

Depending on the copyright of the song, the video may not be seen in all regions, it may no longer be public, it cannot be monetized but it can be seen, etc.

In addition, information is also provided on the type of claim and the actions that can be taken, including contesting the claim.

To avoid claims problems, YouTube recommends us to upload the videos first as “hidden” or “private”, that way we can check the possible content claims for copyright and take the appropriate actions.

We can also use the YouTube Music Library to use some of the copyright-free songs that we can find in it, with the total certainty that it is royalty-free music.

I found a song on Twitch

As for how to tell if a song is copyrighted on Twitch , the rules are very similar to YouTube, as both platforms are required to protect copyrights.

In that sense, on Twitch you can only use music whose rights we own, whether it is royalty-free or CC-licensed music or that we have found on Soundtrack by Twitch, which also supplies copyright-free songs for live broadcasts.

Any other copyrighted song used in a Twitch stream will result in the channel’s owner receiving a so-called “strike,” a copyright infringement notice, in this case. Receiving three strikes implies the closure of the account.

However, before reaching that extreme, like YouTube, Twitch allows copyright claims to be reviewed, so that the owner of the channel can remove the content, mute that audio or file a challenge.

I heard a melody on Instagram

If you are an Instagram user and you share stories with music in the background, you must also wonder how to know if a song is copyrighted on Instagram.

As in the previous two cases, the use of copyrighted songs is highly restricted on Instagram and users may receive copyright infringement notices when playing songs in their videos or stories.

The copyright infringement notice is how you’ll know you’re using copyrighted music in a video. In case you don’t delete it, it will be the application itself that will do it, either by muting the sound of the video or by blocking it.

As in YouTube and Twitch, Instagram allows you to accompany videos with music free of copyright or under a CC license, as long as the conditions of the license are respected (for example, if it is a license that does not allow commercial use, that song could not be used for an advertisement).

In principle, Spotify must respect copyright, that is, in order to host songs on its streaming platform, the company has had to acquire the license to do so. In any case, on its Copyright policy page, it makes a form available to authors or record companies to send a notification of copyright infringement.

On the other hand, as we have already said, being subscribed to Spotify does not give us the right to be able to play the music that is hosted on the platform publicly, since the subscription is for home use. At this point it is important not to confuse copyright with public communication rights.

When we buy an album or subscribe to Spotify, we pay, in part, the copyright (it is a percentage of the sale price that goes to the author), but we do not thereby acquire the public communication rights, these are negotiated, on the other hand, usually with collective copyright managers.

So no, you can’t use your Spotify playlists in your business premises.

Now, how to know if a song is copyrighted on Spotify is easy if the song is current and well-known, as well as if the artist is known, because the same thing happens as we said above, those songs are going to be subject to copyright. With more unknown topics, it is necessary to search for them individually and check what licenses or type of copyright they have.

Now that you have a clearer idea of how to know if the songs are copyrighted, we leave you a list of sites from which you can download copyright-free music, to be able to use it in your commercial projects:

In any case, you should always check the type of license of the music you are going to use, to be sure that you can use it for commercial purposes.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational purposes only and has been developed by referring to reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.

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