Can I Post Videos that Use Other People's Music on Youtube?

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sked the Answer Line forum if it's legal to post a remix of copyrighted songs on Youtube.

Probably not, unless you have the copyright owner's permission. Still, you might get away with it.

If you're lucky, the copyright holder will never discover your infraction. Or they may discover it and let it go, either because they believe it could help promote their work, or because of an advertising deal with YouTube.

But if the copyright owner complains, Youtube will either take down your video or alter it, removing the offending audio. You'll have a chance to respond; check out YouTube's Copyright counter-notifications for details. You might also want to read YouTube's Copyright Tips and explanation of Fair Use.

When YouTube takes down your video, they give you one "strike." Three strikes, and you're out…of YouTube, which will close your account. According to YouTube's General Policy Enforcement page, strikes "may expire in 6 months," but search the Web for youtube strikes go away and you'll find plenty of complaints to the contrary.

You can avoid all this by taking proper action before you post your video.

For instance, you can try to contact the copyright holder and ask for permission. But if your music came from a major artist or a big record company, and you don't have a lot of money, you should probably forget about this idea. In the unlikely event that you get the right person on the phone, they'll probably ask for a very large licensing fee.

But you'll have considerably more luck with small, independent musicians. Offer to credit them onscreen, and even include their URL, and they may be very receptive to the idea. After all, if your video goes viral, so may their music.

Another option: There's a surprisingly large selection of free music on the Web. Try searching for creative commons music download and you'll find plenty of tunes. But when you pick one, be careful to read the conditions on free use of that particular music. Not all Creative Commons licenses follow the same rules.

Read the original forum discussion.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.

This story, "Can I Post Videos that Use Other People's Music on Youtube?" was originally published by PCWorld.

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