How to know if a song is Copyrighted?
Holding a degree in Business Administration and Programming, Pablo established Legis Music in 2016. With a focus on the royalty-free music industry, he has contributed extensively to the field, authoring over 150 articles on various aspects of music licensing. His efforts have been instrumental in developing one of the most straightforward and liberal music licensing frameworks available today.
Today, it is impossible to imagine a world without background music.
From physical businesses such as hairdressers, gyms, or restaurants to media such as radio, television, or the Internet.
All of them have a musical background to enhance the user experience, increase clientele and, ultimately, increase sales.
However, before using background music in any project, the first thing you should do is to know in depth a term of critical importance: copyright.
The copyright represents the author’s rights conceded by law to the author of the work, and they are personal, patrimonial, and exclusive.
With this definition in mind, we might venture to think that all musical works are copyrighted, however, this is not entirely true.
It would be more accurate to say that the vast majority of the songs you listen to are protected by copyright.
However, there are 3 particular cases in which music is not protected by copyright.
We’ll tell you more about them later, as well as the methods you have to identify which songs are copyrighted, and which are not.
But before that, let us warn you about something important:
If you use copyrighted music without first obtaining the appropriate licenses to do so, you will be breaking the law.
And the consequences of doing this illegal activity can be very serious: from the closure of your business’s social media channel to huge financial fines and legal liability.
To avoid uncomfortable surprises in this regard, you should opt for one of these two options:
- Acquire licenses to legally use copyrighted songs.
- Use non-copyrighted music.
The first option involves going through long administrative processes, negotiations with artists and record labels, as well as the payment of large sums of money.
The second option is quick, simple, affordable, and ensures that you are using 100% copyright-free music.
At this point, the decision seems easy.
However, you should know that not all copyright-free music is the same.
As we mentioned before, there are 3 different groups with royalty-free music.
Knowing them and their differences is essential before using any song in your projects.
The 3 cases in which music is not copyrighted
In summary, these 3 specific cases would be the following:
- Music under Public Domain. - Music under Creative Commons licenses. - Royalty-Free music.
Below you will be able to see each of them in detail.
Music under Public Domain
It is often said that public domain music is music that encompasses all works that are not protected by copyright and, therefore, can be used without the author’s permission free of charge.
However, songs in the public domain must have certain characteristics:
- It must have been created before copyright existed. - More than 70 years after the author’s death (in the case of Spain)
We will explain below how to identify songs that are under these rules.
Still, if you want to know more about this type of music, we recommend you to take a look at our article about background music under public domain.
Music under Creative Commons licenses
Creative Commons licensed music is often categorized as free copyright-free music.
The reason for this is simple: downloading this type of music is free.
However, in order to use it correctly in certain projects, you must first know the meaning of the 6 types of Creative Commons licenses that exist.
In our guide about what music copyright-free is, we explain what each one is and why you should know before downloading and using music under these licenses in your projects.
If the music under Creative Commons licenses was labeled as free royalty-free music, this type of music would be labeled as royalty-free but paid music.
Nevertheless, despite not being free, it offers several advantages over the previous two options:
- First, it is up-to-date and modern music, so you can be sure that it is not more than 70 years old. - Secondly, you will not have limitations of use as it happens with Creative Commons music. - Although it is paid, it is much cheaper than the famous copyrighted music.
maintains the benefits of Public Domain music and Creative Commons music, while avoiding their major drawbacks. And all at a much more affordable cost than popular music.
If you are interested in where to find this type of royalty-free music, here are the best online platforms for you to download.
|LEGIS MUSIC||One-time payment||From 19€/lifetime|
|EPIDEMIC SOUND||Monthly subscription for YouTube||From 9,00€/month|
|AUDIOJUNGLE||Individual Licenses||From 1€ per song|
|PREMIUM BEAT||Individual Licenses||From 49€ per song o 64,95€ each month|
|SOUNDTRACK YOUR BRAND||Background music for companies||29€/month|
We will tell you a bit more about these platforms later in case you want to know more about them.
Well, at this point you already know the 3 options to get copyright-free music.
Now let’s see how to find out which songs are copyrighted.
How do I know if a song is copyrighted?
First of all, there are several methods to know reliably if a song is copyrighted or not. Below we will explain, step by step, each of them.
PDinfo – The website with all the music in the public domain
PDinfo is an informative project about the public domain, where you can find not only documentation on this subject, but also books, journalistic writings, and of course, music.
In the Public Domain Music section, you can find all the music tracks under this denomination. If you have doubts about whether the song you want to use belongs to the public domain, this website offers you several ways to clear your doubts.
You can search for it by the first letter of its title or by using its search engine.
It is worth mentioning that if you find the song you want to use in PDinfo, it will not be copyrighted, and therefore you will be able to use it 100% freely.
YouTube – The ultimate tool
YouTube, beyond being the most visited online platform in the world -just behind Google- or being the number 1 video website globally, is also a great tool to indirectly verify the copyright of a song.
Because YouTube is where the vast majority of music tracks are uploaded that have been created for decades.
And as a company, they are committed to complying with the legality when it comes to music copyrights.
In fact, they have created their own algorithm to identify any illegal use of music – the so-called Content ID.
YouTube’s Content ID not only checks the copyrights of songs that have been officially published on the platform but also extends to music much older than YouTube itself.
Now, how can you know which music is copyrighted and which is not on YouTube?
We show it to you below.
Check the video description
Whenever you search for a video on YouTube and it contains copyrighted music, one way to recognize it is to go to the video description.
By default, the platform adds a few lines of information about the music track(s) heard in the video.
Something similar to this:
Therefore, if you search for a song on YouTube, and similar information appears in the description, there is no doubt: that song is copyrighted.
Upload a video to YouTube privately/hidden before publishing it
Another way to detect if a song is copyrighted is by adding it to a video that is uploaded to the platform.
In order of avoiding strikes from YouTube, the recommendation here is to upload it in private or hidden.
It is also recommended that you upload the song with a background image or a video that does not take up much space.
This way, you will not have to render the original video over and over again with each song you want to know its legal status, and therefore, you will save a lot of time.
Once you upload the video privately with the associated song, half of the work is done.
The other half will be taken care of by the Content ID algorithm, which will quickly identify if the song is copyrighted:
- If the song is not copyrighted, you will not receive a warning. - If the song is copyrighted, YouTube will warn you about it.
Other methods to know which music is copyrighted
Apart from the above, there are other ways to find out if a song is copyrighted.
- Look for the copyright mark. Although it may seem obvious, it is a very unusual but very revealing practice. The song you want to use is copyrighted if you see the copyright symbol next to it when you download the song. (Not to be confused with the Creative Commons licensing symbol).
- Know what the law says. To avoid infringing your country of residence’s copyright law, there is nothing better than knowing what it says. You may find it hard to understand, but in summary, it says the following:
“If you can hear a melody or see a musical composition written on paper, that work is copyrighted and the rights belong to the author of the work.”
- Hire copyright experts. If you want to be 100% sure that a song is not copyrighted, one of the most reliable options is to hire specialists in the field or companies that offer this type of service. You can also contact the Copyright Societies, also known as PROs.
Do you want copyright-free music? These are the best platforms!
Previously we introduced you to the 4 best royalty free music websites.
Now it’s time to find out a little more about each of them.
Although there are also other platforms where you can get royalty-free music, we would first like to highlight a novelty that we have introduced in Legis Music:
Launch of three exclusive plans in 2023
We consider it vitally important that our customers can access royalty-free music easily and cheaply.
Therefore, these plans have been designed so that you only have to pay once to get them, allowing you to enjoy unlimited songs for life and have the peace of mind of not having to worry about copyright claims in the future.
Thus, you can choose the plan that best suits your needs:
- Starter Plan. This license allows you to use the music in all social networks and on any web page. But for Youtube, you can take a look at the next plan.
- Personal Plan. If you are looking to get numerous songs to use in your personal projects, this is the license for you. The Personal Plan offers unlimited music downloads, which can be used in social networks and streaming platforms, YouTube, apps, video games and audio books; as well as podcasts, virtual classes and online ads. Its price is $49 in a single payment and for life -if you use it for 3 years, it will be like paying $1/month-.
- Business Plan. This plan is specially designed for freelancers, companies and those who work for clients. It is the most open license of all, as any use case is covered and it also offers unlimited music (the only thing that is not allowed is to resell the songs). Its price is a one-time payment of $99 for life -if you use it for 2 years, it will be like paying $4/month.
As you can see, if there is one thing that makes our licenses stand out, it is the opportunity to enjoy them forever and paying only once.
Below is a table with the three plans and their respective prices.
|Starter Plan||Personal Plan||Business Plan|
|Price||$19 for life||$49 for life||$99 for life|
Epidemic Sound is one of the leaders in the copyright-free music sector, with more than 13 years of experience.
It offers its users a music library with more than 100,000 exclusive music tracks of the highest quality, distributed into songs and sound effects.
Among its most notable tools are the ‘EAR’ option to find similar songs in terms of voice, vibes…; ‘Stems’ with which you can delete any instrument from a music track, and ‘Find Similar’, with which you can find songs similar to those you have previously liked.
Epidemic Sound offers you three types of subscription plans, adapted to whatever your musical needs may be:
- Personal Plan (108 € / year o 13 € / month). Designed for content creators or podcasters who create pieces for their own use. - Commercial Plan (228 € / year o 49 € / month). For freelancers and companies that will create productions for commercial purposes. - Business Plan (quote request needed). Created for entities looking for a business solution such as media or radio and TV stations.
Whatever your case may be, Epidemic Sound promises to offer you the best royalty-free music you can find on the Internet.
Find out now by accessing the platform for free for 30 days.
Artlist is a royalty-free music platform that aims to simplify and reduce the cost of acquiring music licenses for practically any use case.
Its refined interface and curated music library make this platform one of the most chosen by clients such as Google, Mercedes, or Coca-Cola, among others.
But the most innovative of all is its Universal License, with which you can use the music in any project, including your own or your clients’ commercials.
Artlist offers you three types of plans:
- Social Creator: 9.99€, billed yearly (119€) or 14.99€ billed monthly tailored for Social creators. - Creator Pro: 16.60€, billed yearly. - Team: 28.20€ for 2 members, billed annually. - Enterprise: tailored licensing for organizations.
All of them offer you unlimited downloads and unlimited project usage, even after your subscription expires.
Browse the web, pre-listen to their songs for free, and discover all that Artlist hides inside.
And if you think it’s the music solution you were looking for, you can enjoy an additional 2 months free by subscribing to the platform via the button below.
Audiio is the platform with the most revolutionary music offer in the market, and soon you will understand why.
It is worth mentioning that, despite having been on the market for less time than other similar companies, it has managed to convince with its music clients such as Netflix, Adidas, or Nike, among others.
And not only for its large music library or for the quality of its music tracks, created by the best indie artists in the world, but also for its innovative proposal.
This is their Lifetime Music ($299) licence, with which you can pay only once and have access to all the music and sound effects respectively… for life!
They also offer you the Audiio Pro license ($199 / year), with which you will have access to both music tracks and sound effects, but only for one year.
We recommend you to visit the website and take a look at all the royalty-free music that Audiio offers you.
In case you like the service and want to count on this platform as your music ally, you can get a 70% discount on the first year subscription when paying for the Audiio Pro licence by clicking on the button below.
When it comes to using music in any kind of project or business, you should not only take care of aspects such as the music genre, its speed, or its volume.
You also need to take into account the well-known copyright.
Music copyright is an element that you should not overlook under any circumstances if you do not want to face serious legal problems or huge financial penalties.
To avoid these setbacks and have the peace of mind you are looking for regarding music, you need to know if the music you want to use in your projects is protected by copyright.
If you have come this far, you already know the easiest steps to find out:
- Know if the music is before or after 1923. If it is earlier, it is public domain music and is not copyrighted. If it is after that date, it may be copyrighted. 2. Know if it is under the public domain. To do this you should go to the PDinfo portal and check it. Have you found the song you want to use on this website? Then it is not copyrighted. You have not found it? In that case, it is possible that it is protected by copyright. 3. Search on YouTube. Use the platform’s search engine to search for your song and check the comments. Do you find information about licenses granted to YouTube? Then that song is copyrighted. Otherwise, it is music without copyright.
However, instead of going through all these steps, you can also opt for the easiest option: use music that you already know is not copyrighted.
Throughout the article, we have shared with you 3 categories of copyright-free music: public domain music, Creative Commons music, and royalty-free music.
Of the 3 options, the first two have some drawbacks that make them not very compatible with commercial projects.
But royalty-free music licenses offer a real solution to get the background music you were looking for.
Legis Music, Epidemic Sound, Artlist and Audiio are the best platforms where you can find this type of music. All of them are proven companies in the stock music industry, chosen by thousands of customers and prestigious brands. Not only do they offer you huge libraries of top-quality music for your projects, but they do it in an economical and 100% legal way.
If you want to use original and quality music while avoiding any copyright claims, we recommend you to check them out and choose the one that best suits your business.
Why you can trust Legis Music
We offer comprehensive and expertly information about music licensing since 2016.
The website regularly updates its content to reflect the latest changes in music law, ensuring accurate information.
Our dedication to clarity and accuracy in explaining music rights and licensing issues builds trust among musicians, producers, and clients.