How to Check if a Song is Copyrighted on YouTube

YouTube has become one of the most popular platforms for listening to music online. With over 2 billion monthly users, it offers easy access to millions of songs. However, not all music on YouTube is free to use. Much of it is protected by copyright.

Uploading or using copyrighted songs in your YouTube videos without permission can lead to legal issues. Your video could get blocked or demonetized. In serious cases, you may even face copyright infringement claims resulting in penalties or lawsuits.

So how do you make sure you are legally allowed to use a song in your YouTube content? Here are some tips on how to check if a song is copyrighted on YouTube:


How to Tell if a Song is Copyrighted on YouTube

How to Check if a Song is Copyrighted on YouTube 1

How to check if a YouTube song is copyrighted? The short answer is – almost any song you find on YouTube or music platforms will be copyrighted in some way. This means you likely need the acquisition of rights to legally use it on YouTube without permission.

Copyright automatically applies the moment a creative work like music is produced. It grants the creators exclusive rights to distribute copies of their work. In the digital world, this includes usage in videos.

So it is safest to assume that any song publicly available is protected by standard copyright. YouTube itself recommends uploaders to first test videos privately. This allows their automated ContentID system to detect any copyrighted content before public release.


How to Know if a Song is Copyrighted if You Want to Use on YouTube

Many users are confused and looking for answers about how to know if a song is copyrighted? The answer is YouTube has become immensely popular for listening to music. However many creators wrongly assume they can freely use songs in their videos without permission. In reality, most published music is protected by copyright. Using it without licenses can lead to serious consequences like copyright claims, demonetization or even legal action.

So, how do you know if a song is copyrighted on YouTube? Here are some practical tips:

  • Check if the video or audio itself has any copyright info clearly permitting reuse. Look for phrases like “Creative Commons.”
  • Verify if the uploader is the official provider or curator of royalty-free music. This offers clues on usage rights.
  • Search official databases like ASCAP and BMI to see if the song is registered with any Performing Rights Organization.
  • Test uploading a private video with the song to see if YouTube’s Content ID system instantly flags it for claims.
  • Ultimately, seek formal permission from music rights holders before using a song whose copyright status seems unclear.


The easiest way is to check the video or audio file itself that has been uploaded on YouTube. Many uploaders provide copyright details in the description.

Look for phrases like “Licensed under Creative Commons,” “Royalty-free music,” “Public domain,” etc. This means you can safely use the track without needing further permissions.

However, a lack of copyright info does not necessarily mean the song is free to use. The uploader may have forgotten to provide licensing details. So you need to dig deeper.


Verify Uploader Credibility

Examine the credibility of the person or company who uploaded the YouTube music track.

If the track is uploaded by the official artist channel or music publisher, it is likely copyrighted. Using it without permission could risk content ID claims or strikes.

However, if it has been uploaded by a music curation channel or publisher of royalty-free/Creative Commons-licensed music, the rules may differ.

Checking uploader credibility gives you some clues on usage rights, but should not be fully relied upon.


Search Official Databases

To thoroughly verify copyright, you can check official databases that provide music copyright and royalty info:

ASCAP is one of the largest music rights organizations in the US. Their ACE portal lets you search song titles to check whether a track is registered with ASCAP:

  • Visit the ASCAP ACE portal
  • Enter the song title or artist in the search bar
  • It shows you copyright holder info if the song exists in the ASCAP database

Like ASCAP, BMI is a major Performing Rights Organization (PRO). You can use their repertoire search to see if a song is registered with BMI:

  • Go to the BMI Repertoire Search page
  • Enter song title or artist details and hit Search
  • It displays publisher, writer and copyright details if available


How to Check If Music is Copyrighted on YouTube?

How to Check if a Song is Copyrighted on YouTube 2

YouTube Content ID System

YouTube has its own content ID system to identify copyrighted music. You can check if your video with the song gets an instant content ID claim.

  • Upload your video privately as an unlisted video
  • If it instantly gets a content ID claim, then the song is certainly copyrighted
  • If no claims come through, it still does not guarantee 100% safety from future copyright issues

So in addition to checking copyright databases, test uploading the video privately on YouTube as an additional safeguard.


YouTube’s Audio Library

YouTube offers creators an excellent resource with its Audio Library. It contains a collection of music and audio clips that are cleared for usage in YouTube videos.

Creators can browse the Audio Library and select tracks based on mood, genre, instrument or duration. The tracks are free to download and incorporate into videos.

Most of them have an “Attribution” license, requiring you to credit the artist in the video description.

Some tracks may have additional conditions, so check permissions carefully on the specific audio file page. But in general, Audio Library music provides an easy way to legally source great music for your videos. It offers peace of mind by preempting many copyright issues typically associated with third-party music.


YouTube Studio

You can also verify if your video has received any copyright claims using YouTube Studio. Simply log in to your YouTube account and open YouTube Studio. Under the ‘Content‘ tab, select the video you want to check.

The ‘Monetization‘ column here shows if there are any claims on your video. Click ‘See details‘ next to ‘Copyright claims‘ to view specifics like what content is flagged, who has claimed ownership, and how the claim impacts your video in terms of monetization and visibility.

This is the best way to directly check if your video faces any disputes from rights holders over copyrighted material used.


Upload And test video with it privately on YouTube first

You can double-check if a song is copyrighted by uploading a test video with it privately on YouTube first. Simply use the song in a sample video and upload it as an “Unlisted” or “Private” video that only you can view.

YouTube’s automated Content ID system scans all new uploads and detects copyrighted material.

If you instantly get a Content ID claim on your private test video, then the song is certainly copyrighted.

However, not getting a claim does not guarantee 100% safety, as the track may not yet be registered with Content ID by the rights holder.

They can still manually detect it in the future. So while this test method provides more clues, you still need to verify a song’s copyright separately through other means before publishing videos with it publicly. Consider it an additional layer of confirmation.


If despite your best efforts, the copyright status remains unclear, seek direct permission from the rights holders before using the song.

You can try contacting:

  • The artists, songwriters or composers
  • Their record label
  • Their publisher
  • Their PRO such as ASCAP or BMI

Explain how you intend to use their music on your YouTube videos. See if you can get written confirmation permitting your specific usage. This serves as proof that you exercised due diligence.


Purchase Licenses from Stock Music Sites

Rather than struggle with chasing copyright issues yourself, consider licensing ready-made tracks from stock music sites like:

  • Envato Elements – Offers subscription-based unlimited downloads
  • AudioJungle – Popular marketplace for royalty-free music
  • Storyblocks – Specializes in music and SFX for video creators

These marketplaces legally cater to YouTubers with their pre-cleared music libraries. It saves you worries over copyright disputes.


Use Safe Music Sources

Some great sources provide music explicitly suited and permitted for YouTube videos, such as:

The music from these sources can be used based on certain attribution requirements which are specified.


Can you use a cover of a popular song on YouTube?

A common misconception is that you can cover any popular song and freely use it on YouTube. This is not true. Cover versions still fall under copyright and require what’s called a “mechanical license” for recording and distribution.

For YouTube videos, you likely also need a “synchronization license” to add visuals. This becomes crucial if monetizing content.

While covers for personal use are permitted, adding them to public YouTube videos without licenses can violate copyright. It’s an intricate legal area, hence best avoided.

Rather than risk claims by trying to navigate the cover song minefield, it is safer and easier to directly license the original track from platforms like Lickd.


Can I use part of a song for my YouTube video?

A common doubt is whether extracting small portions of a song avoids copyright issues on YouTube.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Even using just a few seconds of a track requires the same permissions and licenses as using the entire song.

YouTube’s automated content ID system can detect even short audio segments and match them to original recordings protected under copyright.

So whether you incorporate a song as background music throughout a video or briefly use parts for effect, you still need approval from the rights holders.

The nature and duration of use does not exempt you from seeking the necessary clearances first. It is a blanket requirement covering all unauthorized usage of copyrighted music.


How can I determine if a song is copyrighted?

There are a few methods you can use to verify if a song is protected by copyright:

  • Check official copyright databases like the U.S. Copyright Office’s Public Catalog for registration records.
  • Use YouTube’s inbuilt Content ID system or YouTube Music Policies to see if the track is recognized as copyrighted material.
  • Search for the song on royalty-free music platforms like AudioJungle and Storyblocks. Read their licensing terms to understand usage rights.
  • As a last resort, consult a legal advisor specializing in music copyrights or an agency like ASCAP to conclusively determine the song’s copyright status.

Read Also Related Copyright Music:



Accidentally using copyrighted music on YouTube can have serious ramifications. By knowing if a song is copyrighted on YouTube you can avoid extra time.

The easiest option is licensing music from stock sites. Alternatively, use free music sources like YouTube Audio Library that explicitly permit YouTube usage.

For songs uploaded online at other places, go through video descriptions, copyright databases, and seek formal permission from rights holders whenever the status seems unclear.

Spending this effort upfront saves you lots of headaches later on if any disputes arise. It ensures you remain on the right side of copyright law.

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