Legally Adding Copyrighted Music to Your YouTube Video

Put music in your YouTube videos without fearing copyright issues.

Woman listening to music lying on grass
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Using commercial music as the background for your YouTube video without permission might violate U.S. copyright law. The music rights holder could issue a copyright claim on your video, resulting in the video being taken down or the audio stripped from it. The good news is that YouTube has options to help you stay legal with your music.

The site offers an extensive list of popular commercial songs from well-known artists that you can use under certain circumstances and an Audio Library that contains free music and sound effects. Both of these collections are located in the Create section of the YouTube Studio (formerly Creator Studio).

Finding Copyrighted Commercial Music You Can Add to Your Videos

The YouTube commercial Music Policies section contains a list of many current and popular songs that users have shown an interest in using. They usually come with some restrictions. The restriction may be that the song is blocked in certain countries or that the owner may place ads on your video to monetize the use of the music. The list also includes songs that you are not allowed to use. To view the copyrighted commercial music list:

  1. Log in to your YouTube account from a computer browser.

  2. Click your profile photo in the upper right corner of the screen and click YouTube Studio in the menu that appears.

    YouTube main page showing YouTube Studio (beta) menu item in right-hand Profile column
  3. In the left-hand navigation menu, hover over Other Features.

  4. Select Audio Library.

    Screenshot of YouTube Studio beta showing Other features and Audio library buttons
  5. In the left-hand navigation menu, scroll down to Create.

  6.  Select Music Policies.

    Screenshot of Music Policies section of YouTube Studio beta, includes a highlight of triangle that shows more detail about specific songs
  7. Click on any title in the list to open a field that includes the restrictions on that song. 

YouTube Restriction Types

Each song in the Music Policies list is accompanied by the restrictions that the music owner has set for its use on YouTube. In most cases, they apply to the original song and also to any cover of that song by anyone else. They include:

  • A comment on where the original music or covers can be used. This may be Viewable worldwide, Viewable everywhere except 2 countries, Not viewable in 74 countries, and other similar entries. You don't want to choose a song that isn't usable in the U.S. because your video would be blocked here. If you see a notice that the music is blocked in a group of countries, tap on the entry to open the list of countries and see which ones won't be able to view your video. 
  • You will typically see a note that Ads can appear. This means that the music owner can place ads on your video in exchange for the right to use your music. If you don't like the idea of the music owner monetizing your video, you may need to select from the free songs in the Audio Library because most of the copyrighted music has this disclaimer.
  • You may see This song is not available for use in your YouTube video along with a warning that your video may be blocked if you use it. Don't use it.

For example, at the time of publication, "Gangnam Style" from Psy and "Uptown Funk" from Mark Ronson and Bruno Marks were listed as Viewable worldwide. Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again" is labeled not available for use, and Adele's "Someone Like You" is Blocked in 220 countries. All of them note that Ads can appear.

Using one of these commercial songs legally on YouTube does not grant you the right to use it anywhere else. Also, copyright holders can change the permissions they grant for the use of their music at any time.

Legal Free Music for YouTube Videos

If you don't find the music you'd like to use or don't care about the restrictions, check out YouTube's free music Audio Library. There are plenty of songs to pick from, and they rarely have any restrictions on usage. To locate the YouTube collection of free music that you can use with your videos:

  1. Log in to your YouTube account from a computer browser.

  2. Click your profile photo in the upper right corner of the screen and click on YouTube Studio in the menu that appears.

  3. In the left-hand navigation panel, hover over Other Features.

  4. Select Audio Library to open YouTube's collection of music and sound effects.

  5. Select the Free Music tab.

    Free music and Audio Library buttons in YouTube Studio preferences sections
  6. Click on any of the free music entries you see to listen to a preview and—most importantly—to read about any restrictions on your use of the music. In most cases, you'll see You're free to use this song in any of your videos. In some cases, you may see You're free to use this song in any of your videos, but you must include the following in your video description: followed by a disclaimer of some kind that must be copied and used exactly as described. When you find the music you want to use, click the download arrow next to the title to download it for use with your video.

You can browse through the tracks, enter a specific title in the search field, or browse by category using the GenreMoodInstrument, and Duration tabs.

You can also use Creator Studio Classic to find this information. You can find Creator Studio Classic on the bottom left of the primary YouTube Studio page and select it. Then select Audio Library (to find free music) or Music Policies (to find copyrighted music) in the left-hand navigation. From there, choose the song you want to know more about.