YouTube Copyright: What You Need to Know about Song Covers

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September 30, 2019
YouTube Copyright What You Need to Know about Song Covers

Barbara brought David from the copyright team back on for another copyright breakdown on Creator Insider! This episode is all about using copyrighted music in videos, particularly song covers.

David starts off by breaking down the differences in the parts of music that could be claimed in videos: Composition and Recording (or Master). With all music, there are copyrights to protect every aspect of the music and its recording, not just the final MP3 that you play on your computer. There’s the original composition with the melody and notes of the song, and there’s also the final recording or master that you might hear on the radio. 
Both of these can be claimed with Content ID. The most familiar situation is a claim for the song’s master – where a song from the radio is heard in a video, and a Content ID claim is applied as a result. But creators can also receive Content ID claims for humming the melody for a song or displaying the lyrics of a song – even without music – without the usual exceptions of parody, education, etc. being applicable. This was the cause of quite a hubbub regarding the “Happy Birthday” song back in 2016.
This is great information to disseminate to creators. Copyright is actually a very intricate system, and honestly YouTube’s UI does not do justice in conveying such detail. This video from Corridor Crew actually contains a fantastic breakdown of all the different elements that could be copyrighted in a video, and why YouTube’s current “take all the revenue” system for Content ID is really half-baked.

Credit: Corridor Crew

David states that the Content ID claim UI tries to make it clear if the claim is for the composition or recording, to help creators who get confused by receiving a claim on a drum cover (for example) where the master recording isn’t actually played. 
Next, they cover scenarios where Content ID claims are valid on videos: Acapella, humming, lyric reading (even with no music), showing lyrics on-screen, song covers, remixes.
There are arguments for fair use on parodies that hold the original song up to ridicule and critique (think Weird Al Yankovic) that get messy, there’s some major court precedents regarding these.
David states that YouTube has a new tool for song covers that allow the publisher to share revenue from the videos with Content ID claims with the creator who made the cover, instead of taking all of the revenue. This is only available for creators in the YouTube Partner Program (of course) and the tool is currently only accessible in the Creator Studio Classic. You can read how to enable this for your song covers here.
Tech educator, ’90s and ’00s Nostalgia Nerd, Pixel and Framerate Junkie. 12 years on YouTube is a loooong time.