Wait! Don’t post that music video on YouTube without a sync license!

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When you attempt to synch a sound recording of a song with a visual element, you need to obtain a sync license

sync license for YouTube music videoMusicians getting in trouble with the law – well, that’s nothing new. What’s a good music resume without a couple of arrest reports to fill out the career dips? But what about that YouTube “take down” notice you just received for the video you posted of your band covering “Freebird?” You got a mechanical license to release the song on your CD (right?), and the video turned out awesome, so you owe it to the world to post it online. But did you get a sync license for your online videos of cover songs?

“When you attempt to ‘synch’ a sound recording of a song with any audio/visual element, you also need to obtain a synchronization license (or sync license). This is a separate, negotiable license that allows you to use a particular piece of music in synch with other visual elements, such as in your music video.”

That’s a snippet of what CD Baby’s resident entertainment attorney/blogger Christiane Cargill Kinney posted on The DIY Musician blog in her thorough explanation of the requirements for posting videos of cover songs online. The article is titled “Posting Cover Songs on YouTube: Music Licensing Law Explained,” and it’s filled with serious information about compulsory mechanical licenses, broadcast licenses, re-print licenses, sync licenses, and so on, and so on. As she puts it, “There are about as many music licenses as there are ‘Beliebers,’ and they each serve different purposes.”

Read the entire post here.

Then be prepared to take down that “Bohemian Rhapsody” spoof you thought would go viral. (Speaking of, if you have another 6 minutes and 38 seconds to spare, you’ll find that William Shatner beat you to it.)

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61 thoughts on “Wait! Don’t post that music video on YouTube without a sync license!

  1. Pingback: Music Licensing and Leveraging Your Songs | Disc Makers Blog
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  3. I founded a dance competition company that is very grass roots. We pay for performance licenses from all three licensing companies (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC) which, for our small company, has a large impact on our budget. We’d like to be able to Live Stream the events from some venues, but have been stymied by not being able to ascertain of how we can obtain these licenses.
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  9. It sounds complicated, but it’s pretty simple. Did somebody else write a song that you want to perform? Did they write a song that you want to satirize/parody? Did somebody else come up with a killer riff that made their song a hit, and you want to use that riff somewhere else?

    Technicalities aside, these are all instances in which YOUR cover, parody, or derivation has value BECAUSE somebody else created something fantastic.

    Ask yourself this: does your video have meaning without using somebody else’s creation? If you need their song or riff, or if your parody or derivation only has value because the world already knows the original, then YOU are posting a video which infringes on the rights of the copyright holder to get paid for their creation.

    So, should you get a license to parody Bohemian Rhapsody? You are benefiting from the creation of the original, which means YES, you should be getting a license.

    Should you get a license to cover another band’s song? They worked hard to write the song, and somebody (the copyright owner) worked hard and invested a lot of money to get that song out to our ears, so YES, you should get a license.

    This is not rocket science. If you want to post something truly original, then create your own music and post it.

  10. Who’s the moron that wrote this post? Yes, of course, all musician’s get into trouble with the law. What an ignorant stereotypical comment. Why don’t you get an education before you write something as stupid as this. I’ve been a law abiding musician for all my life as have all my musician friends. Yeah, I know you’re going to say that I’m too sensitive and politically correct, but the Reality TV crap has to stop somewhere.

    1. Well, I guess it is possible that you’re not too sensitive, Tommy. It’s more possible that you are rather boring and neglected to develop a sense of humor due to all that time you devoted to abiding laws and such. Gods bless you. Do you play clarinet, by chance? …viola??
      P.S. Hey, did you notice you have two first names, Tommy? That’s kind of weird, huh? Which one do most folks call you, or do they kind of same them both together, like “Tommychris”?

  11. Appreciate someone’s help with this one. I recently recorded a cover version of the song “La Bamba” which is originally a Mexican folk song. I have rearranged to entire music and sang the song with some modifications. It has been recorded by a few artists like Ritchie Valen, Los Lobos before. Do I need to get a mechanical and sync license for it since it is originally a traditional Mexican folk song? Advice please……………………………..

  12. Sooner rather than later no-one will be able to upload original music anymore because you can only create so many variations of beats, melodies etc because you will have to provide license agreements from the various artists who presumably created that specific few sections of melody or drum beat in your original composition of music first.

  13. We as musicians…,Singers, Write Songs, Record Songs, Preform the pieces, Run around getting Gigs, Interviews,…Connecting with the fans, news papers ect….We all need to feel our Songs are protected, Like our Babies are….It is nice that others Love the songs and want to do them…..But if we don’t get paid we don’t eat..Or pay Bills…So pay the small amount then preform the Songs….You would be better to Write your own Stuff….Regards from Cheryl…

  14. I got screwed by YT.Had around 140 of my own things (only 40 covers or so )and they clipped my wings,crushing HUNDREDS of thousands of walk -in views ,people just “finding ” my stuff and enjoying it.NOW every month or so some one subscribes (these days non account users only),They red flagged me for a cover of lets call them ..POOPERSCAMP . the X is one of 3 before you are out ,so be damn sure I copied every single video and saved ,because they will remove without permission anything the deem wrong.MIND YOU …POOPERSCAMP doesnt have 140 songs or videos keep in mind who they are screwing. I no longer create anything for YT and in the future will not permit my things on there,unless they are paying me.I use a nice little indy spot called musicians together,and my own website has 4 albums of my stuff available for free perusal. My stuff will always be free,completely my work,until I do a pro recording.

  15. Yeah, and be careful when signing up for sync licensing with CD Baby too, because if you are collecting ad revenue from Youtube via your Google Adsense account, any song or CD you have registered with CD baby and opted in for sync licensing means that Youtube will no longer pay you for any ad revenue for that song/video, instead they send it to CD baby and you don’t get it any more. What you do get is a link automatically inserted to purchase the song online somewhere, which is kind of cool, but you could just put your own text link to your CD where it’s available for purchase. Don’t opt in for syn licensing unless you’re prepared to hand over your adsense money, and adsense money can be okay if you’re getting a lot of views.

  16. This is the professional way to do it.If you are going to sell the song you need a mechanical.If you are producing a video you need a sync.Your bases are covered.You have taken the time and effort to produce a thing you want to release.You are putting out a couple of extra bucks to INSURE that your own interests are covered.Perhaps your thing is really taking off well and it gets pulled or you get sued.A copyright infringement suit is a nasty piece of business.It’s your life and you can do whatever you want,yet ignorance of the law is not a defense in a courtroom.And I am talking a professional project here.If you are just doing stuff for fun or shot a video of a band you really liked at a club doing a cover song and you posted it,your not hoping to monetize it,I don’t think you would have to worry to much,If it takes off you just may have to sign some papers giving the rights and credits to the actual owners.They get the free advertisement! Yet for a project that is commercial,the licensing fees are pennies on the dollar you make.you have to buy the songwriter and publisher a very nice spag dinner and they will toast you instead of roast you! I hopes this helps you and good luck!

  17. This is fuckin stupid. we do covers of other songs-because we loved/respected/idolized these artists/bands.. we pay for mechanical licenses to record the song and now your saying that we need to get another license for the video of said pieces.%$#@! that just fucking stupid. If this is the case-nobody will do remakes-and the original artist-(who would have gotten royalties) will now get nothing-because people like me will just say fuck it. It seems to me-that some money is better than NO MONEY…

    1. This is not a new thing. Any cover song that ever had a video played on MTV, VH1, or any other visual medium required sync licensing. When YouTube first came to be, anyone with a digital camera and internet connection could upload a video for the whole world to see, and the composers of original works were seeing their songs being played in a mass-media setting but not receiving owed royalties or credit. Much litigation and many takedown notices later, what it comes down to is “if you had to do it for MTV, you have to do it for YouTube.” And since sync licensing for MTV never stopped anyone, then sync licensing for YouTube won’t either. Suck it up and get the license.

  18. Shredder, there’s no black and white exactly for what you’re proposing, so it might have to be tested in the courts (after a DMCA takedown of your video) however I do not think your proposal would actually be effective. If you want a guide on how it *might* be taken by the courts, I suggest you download the fair use checklist from columbia.edu – http://copyright.columbia.edu/copyright/files/2009/10/fairusechecklist.pdf

    you’ll note that against your favor: using a large portion or whole work, public distribution on the internet and (likely) bad-faith behavior… as you’re trying to “play” the fair-use clause to your benefit and educational instruction is not your actual goal.

  19. Speaking of confusing and complicated laws,. It is my limited understanding that the act of uploading any video on to YOUTUBE relenquishes several future rights by the owner. Most people dont know or dont think the downside is worth holding out on such a widely viewed platform. There are many other places that musicians and performers place their work for wide exposure. Are there any preliminary precautions that artists should consider before uploading to the internet? thanks great article

  20. Would like to learn more on the subject also will soon have my Lp comeplete,and would love to drop a single that consist of two of my faverites of the album,need help with the copyrights…

  21. OK, so here’s a question for ya. We all know that words and melodies may be copyrighted, but not song titles nor chord progressions. Furthermore, my understanding is that (please correct me if I’m wrong) under the “fair use” clause of copyright, use of copyrighted material for instructional purposes is allowed without acquiring consent or license. Now, if that is correct, then what if a band covering a song they did not write (nor for which had acquired a license of any sort) superimposed the chords to the song in the margins of the video, in effect teaching the viewer the chord progression of the song as it played? Would that technically constitute using the tune as “instructional material”, and therefore requiring neither written consent nor licensing?

    1. Why look for loopholes? If you are so sure that your interpretation of someone else’s original work is so clever and interesting, that you’ll be able to monetize it at least enough to defray the cost of the license, pay for the license. You don’t ask the carpenter to build you a house for free. You don’t ask the plumber to come clear your stopped-up toilet for free. And no matter what YOU do for a living, I’m certain that you wouldn’t do it with nearly so much enthusiasm if you weren’t getting paid for it. Can you imagine how you would feel if you went into work today, and your boss said, “I’ve decided not to pay you for your services anymore. But we still have to meet that deadline for that project you’ve been working on, so, get to work…” After you stop swearing at the “S. O. B.”, I’m sure you’ll tell him just how far up his a** he can shove that project. What will you say when he says, “I thought it would be a fair use of your work.” Does ANYBODY get this???

      1. I agree with you CowboySlim. I do get it!!! It is frustrating to watch people use other people’s creation to gain success. I get so frustrated when some lady or dude gets a record deal because they got a million hits on youtube singing someone else’s song. What is up with that?

    2. Shredder, there’s no black and white exactly for what you’re proposing, so it might have to be tested in the courts (after a DMCA takedown of your video) however I do not think your proposal would actually be effective. If you want a guide on how it *might* be taken by the courts, I suggest you download the fair use checklist from columbia.edu – http://copyright.columbia.edu/copyright/files/2009/10/fairusechecklist.pdf

      you’ll note that against your favor: using a large portion or whole work, public distribution on the internet and (likely) bad-faith behavior… as you’re trying to “play” the fair-use clause to your benefit and educational instruction is not your actual goal.

      Read more: Wait! Don’t post that music video on YouTube without a sync license! – Comments Page 1 https://blog.discmakers.com/2012/04/wait-dont-post-that-music-video-on-youtube-without-a-sync-license/comment-page-1/#comment-10386#ixzz2EmsI07AG

  22. Allthe songs that I want to put on itune are original. They are all written and produced by me. They are all on CDs, and I sell them at performances. I need some one to help me put 15 songs on itune share the income.

    1. When you upload your songs on Tunecore they will put them on iTunes for 9.99 ea and even will collect your
      royalties for you and post to your account.

    2. I am using Tunecore and CD Baby and like CD Baby the best. They Charge a one time fee and then a small % of any music that sells and they put it on iTunes and many other places. If your music does not sell, you are never charged again, unlike Tunecore, who charges their fee every year, but does not get a % of your sales. Good Luck and God Bless. Ps: You will save money also by listing your 15 songs as an album. It costs around $50.00 for and album and people can still buy singles off of it.

  23. “Take down the Bohemian Rhapsody spoof”? A spoof would be a parody, which would certainly be allowed without any license at all…?

    1. If, indeed, your video of Bohemian Rhapsody passes the test of being a true parody, then it is covered under the First Amendment as free speech, and therefore, in no possible danger of being copyright infringement.

  24. Nott true your not supposed to sample any ones music music business 101 example Ask vanilla ice and David bowie about sampling look up the court documents  about sampling on line they will take the shirt off of your back the record Labels youll never win your too poor to fight that battle.

  25. all orignal songs are not for use unless you own them or submit an intent to use form to the agency that holds the copy right, BMI, ASCAP or the publishing house the music belongs to or else they will send a cease and desist letter or sue your pants off

  26. If Apple Inc provides music in iMovie as part of the iLife Suite free of charge for personal use it’s already been paid for, right? Can we post it in a public forum since Apple licensed it already? 

  27. If Apple Inc includes a song for use in iMovie free of charge is it pre licensed for publicans personal use?

    1. The music apple includes should be “royalty-free” (check the terms and conditions or license of use to make sure) which means that yes you can upload it with no problem.

    1. Not unless you are planning to sue yourself. However, if the song is owned by more than one person, it may be best for them to put something in writing. There are downloadable synch license forms available for free or low cost.

  28. Is all this information sent to me in The Disc Maker Catalog that I get weekly? If not should I print all this info for futher use?


  29. What licensing requirements are needed to post a video of an original composition (bsdies, obviously, registering the copyright)?

    1. You shouldn’t need a license or someone else’s permission to post a video of your own work or compositions. At least not yet, anyway… And altho it isn’t wise to post an original song or video without copyright and registry with ASCAP or BMI, (someone could claim it as their own) it isn’t illegal.

      1. But I have had YouTube issue a take down notice of my own works! One of my artist needed a beat for a show, and didnt remember what the beat is named. I had to preview 125 beats for 25 mins before I found the beat they needed, so I decided to record the video and post it on YouTube.

        I made all of the beats 100% original composition and I created them using all licensed software/sounds. I used the pre-installed sounds of my actual hardware Roland MC-808, then I used sounds I purchased from iStandard (they sale various production kits), and I create everything in Cubase (so I used the proprietary Yamaha Sounds which is the Halion1 VST, but I also own a yamaha Motif).

        YouTube said I would have to provide the user agreement for all of the differant plugins that I used, and I felt that was rather demanding. I didnt understand why they dont already have all of the agreements on file? They are easily obtained from the manufacturers website and this is common knowledge. If you produce a track using the GM sounds in your damn Yamaha Motif, you dont need to clear anything before you can copyright.

        YouTube sometimes takes the easy way out…

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