Using Music Online


As we continue to evolve in a world where most people are spending a good amount of their time online and on social media apps, places like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook are the places to premiere new content. When music budgets have been limited and didn’t allow for a full media rights package, creatives have used online platforms to release their projects.

As this continues to be a common distribution channel, people are still a little unclear on what rights are involved when using music on these platforms. Because let’s face it, licensing can be a bit confusing even if you’re not new to the process. Especially when technology is constantly changing along with the opportunities to connect people with your content. Here are some important things to know and keep in mind.

Generally, there are two types of rights you need to secure in order to use the music you want to when it comes to music in visual media. You need a synchronization license (this gives you the permission to use the underlying composition of the song) and a master use license (this gives you permission to use the recording of the song). Certain circumstances and platforms will only call for securing the rights for one type of license, while others can get tricky and call for multiple.

Content ID System

YouTube has a Content ID system that analyzes every video that is uploaded to its platform. This system helps determine if a video contains any copyright material. If the system finds any copyright material in your video it automatically places a claim on that video on behalf of the rights holders. Even though YouTube has this intuitive system in place, it’s still a good idea to get permission from the rights holders because, without this permission, your video could be blocked, muted, or could have viewing restrictions in place in certain territories/countries.

Instagram uses an algorithm that is similar to YouTube’s Content ID system. If your video infringes on copyright, they will usually take it down, send the user a notification that the video has been taken down, and gives the user a chance to appeal/get the rights secured from the copyright holders.


Facebook, however, has taken a different approach to the issue of users using copyright music in their content. Earlier this year Facebook signed a deal with Universal Music Group and Sony / ATV Music Publishing that enables Facebook users to upload music to their videos and even more pertinent, gives users access to popular music. However, the catch with this is if you have a trailer for your film / tv series that you’re only promoting on Facebook, you may still need to get permission from the rights holders for the use. Promoting a product that you intend to distribute is different from filming your cat in the bath tube with Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina” playing in the background. So, use your best judgement for this platform.

Blogs and Vlogs

There’s a common misconception for the general public whom own and manage blogs and vlogs and that they can be allowed to use any music they want because the platform is for personal use. But this is not true.  You would need to get a license that would encompass permission to publicly perform the song (underlying composition) as well as the sound recording.

Navigating the ever changing world of music licensing can be daunting, but these little tidbits should give you some direction / some good places to start. All-in-all a good rule of thumb is it’s better to ask for permission then forgiveness. If you’re unsure whether you need to secure the rights for a use feel free to reach out to us at StraightUp Music Supervision or reach out to an entertainment attorney.