Can I Use Copyrighted Music for YouTube Videos?

Audio Desing Desk
By Gabe Cowan

In this article we will tackle the questions, “Can I use copyrighted music for YouTube videos?” YouTube was the first of the digital streaming platforms to work with copyright holders and enforce the DMCA rules. YouTuber’s were typically proactive to getting in and updating music for YouTube videos.


We need to absolutely clear here. It’s not that you can’t use copyrighted music on YouTube. It’s just that you need to obtain the correct license if you want to monetize your content. YouTube has invested significantly in the technology to identify copyrighted music and check that your channel is in compliance. The system used is called Content ID. Content ID tracking allows copyright owners to identify and to manage how content is used on YouTube. Every video uploaded to YouTube is scanned against the Content ID database to detect if it contains any copyrighted music or video.

Copyright owners, not YouTube, get to decide what to do with videos that contain their work.

If you use copyrighted music, without acquiring rights, the owner may take any of the following actions:

  • Mute your video (video is still available but no audio will play)
  • Block your video (this is the worst case scenario – this most likely will penalize your channel)
  • Monetize your video themselves, by running ads (you won’t be able to monetize it)
  • Track the viewership statistics of your video

Content ID is only available for the major music labels and music publishers. However, a few companies like Audiam and AdRev have been created to help smaller music labels, publishers and producers gain access to a similar offering.

If someone has made a copyright claim against you, are you in trouble?

Not initially, but you do risk the chance of having restrictions occur on your channel. This can really impact your ability to monetize content.

The Content ID system is merely informing you that it detected some copyrighted music in your video. The copyright owner decides whether they want to allow you to use their music.

You really should not risk ever using music without the license as the most likely two occurrences are:

  • The publisher will put ads on your content and make all of the money
  • YouTube will pull the content down and you will be severely penalized going forward when you try to monetize content. You may lose access to some YouTube features. Repeat offenders are quickly banned from YouTube. Not even deleting offending videos will restore your account standing.

How can I legally use copyrighted music for YouTube videos?

The best approach is to find a royalty free, subscription service like Audio Design Desk. We offer the largest catalogue of royalty free music. You pay a monthly subscription and you get access to all of our music, sound-effects and samples. You also get the stems, so you can remix the music as you see fit. If you leave Audio Design Desk you have already paid for the music you have used. This means you will never have a copyright claim against you. We have secured all of the copyrights and we have songs and samples for the top publishers and record labels. If you’d like us to be your solution for royalty free music, click here to sign-up.