Reader Questions & Answers: Copyright, YouTube, and Monetization
File Under: Reader Questions and Answers, Understanding Your Legal Rights, Making Videos.
We continue to get some great questions from readers. While many of them are specific to their situation, some questions cover topics that many musicians can benefit from which we like to share in the DIY Advisor column. If you have any questions, you can write us at email@example.com.
Q: I am a songwriter who owns a sound recording. A video producer created a YouTube video using my song without asking me. I only just learned about this and discovered it’s received millions of views and the video producer has been making money off it through the YouTube AdShare program. I haven’t received anything for it, and when I approached him, he’s refused to pay me any money. What can I do?
The DIY Advisor: As we talk about in The Indie Band Survival Guide (Remixed & Remastered: Second Edition), the rules of copyright don't allow people to use your music composition or sound recording in their videos without your permission. You have a right to charge whatever you wish for its use, or even to refuse to allow them to use the song. They are required to obtain these rights ahead of when they post it. That said, many creators end up using videos because they don't understand this, or, of course, some willfully infringe. YouTube has made amateur releases of video easy, and as such it's made it easy for creators to post infringing material.
While you can just shut these down, we suggest in How to Make Money from Your Music Back Catalog on YouTube that you use the YouTube ContentID system to collect an income stream from these infringing uses, even if they originally did it without your knowledge or permission. ContentID was created to help copyright owners collect royalties when any videos use or incorporate any of your copyrighted audio or video on YouTube.
ContentID allows you to register your music so YouTube can takes a "digital fingerprint" of it. Registering does not post the music content to the public, instead it’s stored behind-the-scenes in YouTube’s database so ContentID. Once it’s in the system, ContentID scans all videos on YouTube to see if there’s any matches of your music.
So, your first step, assuming you’re the copyright owner, is to follow the steps outlined here.
Now onto the other questions:
Q: How can I get a cut of the advertisement money for the video?
The DIY Advisor: Yes. If ContentID finds a match -- which it would in this case -- the system then gives you three choices, one of which is to collect a share of the advertising revenue. (The other two choices are: you can require YouTube to take the video down or you can monitor the video and just track its statistics).
Q: And can you only get the advertisement revenue going forward or can you recoup any of the advertisement revenue that the artist has been collecting since it was posted?
The DIY Advisor: You can certainly get a cut of the advertising revenue going-forward once ContentID matches your music to the video that was produced. However, it won’t pay you for previous plays before you registered the music and made the match. That money was already paid. To get a share of those payments will require you to talk with the producer and work out a deal for the past plays. Or, if that doesn’t work, then you’ll want to talk to a lawyer.
Of course, a lawsuit over this use can be an expensive course of action. Further, sometimes, it creates a public backlash if a well-liked and public video is taken down. Considering these types of infringements happen all of the time, we recommend posting all of your material on ContentID -- both audio and video. That way, the technology can scan for your work and allow you to get monetized as soon as others post it.
If you have more questions about copyright, we recommend the Your Rights chapter of The Indie Band Survival Guide (Remixed & Remastered: Second Edition) and the Lynda course Music Law: Copyrighting a Song by Richard Stim.
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