Copyright Issues When Using Music in Videos

Fact-checked by Layla Varela
Updated on: May 16, 2023

As we know, the digital era brings us closer and closer. It makes it easier for us daily to reproduce and produce content, such as videos.

We also know that it is popular to take our favorite music or the music of the moment to get more attention from the audience. After all, a great video needs music, and any video without audio doesn't look professional.

Even in the educational environment, based on hearsay, some teachers advise their students to take 30 seconds or less of the music material to avoid copyright issues and make their videos more visible. But this is a problem. 

What are the copyright problems?

1. Background music is not seen as an educational use but as an auxiliary.

According to the Fair Use Guidelines, music that applies to education would be music directly related to the course content. Let's see two examples:

  1. Suppose you’re studying classical music and want to use Mozart's "Sonata in A Major" as an example for your students. So, this is considered educational use. 
  2. Imagine you're studying the politics of the 60s and want to share how rock music reflects the times through poetry. In that case, you may use a portion of the Beatles "Revolution" to educate your students. 

Both of these examples demonstrate educational and relevant uses of music. 

Remember, just because you are producing a video for your school doesn't mean it escapes copyright for music content. 

2. Using copyrighted music on your channel or website without permission is an infringement

When you post the video on your school's website or some other public domain, you should be aware that the video must state that the music used is used for educational purposes.  

3. Legally purchased music is for personal use only

There is some debate regarding the use of music. For example, many students may conclude that a piece purchased on a legal platform can be used for a school video in class.

But the reality is different. So there is a set of rules that are applied to these situations, and they are the following:

a) Share this information with your students. Most people know these rules when using music and uploading to public domains. This information is valuable and will help them avoid making mistakes in the future.

b) Ask permission from the entity with the music title you want to use. If you think the music is necessary for your product, you can ask for the rights to this; it is not sure that they will give it to you, but you can try it. Remember, the song or music is not from a single artist or composer.

You can bet that most popular pieces are not owned by the artist but by a handful of people and companies. So, keep in mind that if you ask permission, you'll have to ask many people for approval.

c) You can buy royalty-free. Many students and teachers use this type of music because the options in styles are endless, plus it is the perfect insurance for your site, ensuring compliance and demonstrating due diligence.

For educational use, you should always make sure that the royalty-free music will give you the following:

As a student, you can use synchronization with film and video broadcast and podcast rights to duplicate and sell videos within the continuation's educational environment. In addition, you can have your videos in your portfolio. However, if you want to use the video after becoming a student, you must consider the following according to the proper music license.

  • Understanding these laws and ethical practices from students can make people understand the importance of ownership, labor, and creation for their work.
  • Even if there is a myth that there are no copyright lawsuits against schools, this is not entirely true; there are thousands of these, but the truth is that they are settled out of court. 
  • We must understand that by teaching this to young minds, we will prevent this from happening.  

Information based on Barry S. Britt, a creative and executive music producer for film and video. As an ASCAP member, he has been educating educators on digital copyright awareness since 1996.

Carolina Builes is a technology writer with more than 3 years' experience covering artificial intelligence, digital media, and tech innovations. She distills complex topics into accessible, engaging content to educate broad audiences. Carolina believes that quality STEM education resources should be available to all, and her informative writing helps demystify topics like coding, cybersecurity, and emerging tech.
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