I Want to Upload a Cover Song or Music Video to Youtube
Whenever you post content to YouTube, you are agreeing to their Terms of Service which states, "the Content you submit must not include third-party intellectual property (such as copyrighted material) unless you have permission from that party or are otherwise legally entitled to do so."
What Does This Mean?
This means YouTube is putting the responsibility on you to license the music you're using. To be legally protected from any liability, you must ensure that you have the appropriate permissions from all copyright holders involved. Otherwise, users who post unlicensed content could face legal action, have their content removed from YouTube, or be required to pay damages to the copyright holders. You can use Easy Song's Custom Licensing service to have an agent reach out to the rights holders and negotiate the best price for your project, and you can also read below to learn more about the "What?" and "Why?" behind the permissions you need.
Understanding "Two Sides" of a Song
Because YouTube is a public video sharing platform, there are several types of permission you should be aware of, even for the most basic cover song videos. You should also know that in licensing, there are two parts that make up a song. There's the musical composition, which is the intellectual property of the composer(s) who created it, or their publishers. It includes aspects like the melody and lyrics. Then there's the sound recording, which is the physical and digital property of the recording artist or recording label that produced it. Any time you are using the sound recording, you are also using the music composition of the song. Both of these two parts are valuable assets to their owners, and by law we are required to get their permission or adequately compensate them any time either part is being used.
Types of Permission to Be Aware of for YouTube:
These are permissions that come up when dealing with YouTube videos, but may or may not apply to your situation. You may need two or three of these licenses in order to be fully covered depending on your use of the musical composition and/or sound recording.
1) Public Performance Rights - Gives you permission to play or perform a song in public that someone else wrote. All public performance rights in the United States are handled by three performance rights organizations, or PROs - ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. YouTube pays a licensing fee to these PROs for blanket permission to have their songs performed on their platform, through YouTube videos.
2) Mechanical Rights - Give you permission to record a song someone else wrote and distribute it in an audio-only format. It pays a royalty to the composer or their publisher. This is the most common form of license when talking "Cover Songs" and it is easy to get through our Cover Song Licensing. This is thanks to stipulations in US Copyright Law which allow us to obtain the license without express permission from the copyright holders. However you will not be covered under this type of license, as YouTube is considered a video format even when showing static album art or a blank screen.
3) Synchronization (Sync) Rights - Give you permission to record a song that someone else wrote and distribute it in a video format. It pays a royalty to the composer or their publisher. The only way to get this is to contact the publisher directly. They are within their rights to set any price, take all the time they want, or reject the license altogether. You will need a Sync License in order to legally upload content to YouTube - whether that is through direct permission from the publisher or through our Custom Licensing service.
Additional Permissions for Cover Songs:
4) Master Rights - Give you permission to use a recording that someone else made. It pays a royalty to the artist or their record label. The only way to get this is to contact the record label directly. They can set any price, take all the time they want, or reject the license altogether. You will need this type of license if you are using any sound recordings, samples, or backing tracks that you have not created yourself.
5) Print Rights - Give you permission to display or print music notes or lyrics that someone else wrote. It pays a royalty to the composer or their publisher. The only way to get this is to contact the publisher directly. They can set any price, take all the time they want, or reject the license altogether. You will need this type of license if you are displaying any notes or lyrics in any part of your YouTube video.
For additional info on this topic, ASCAP also has a very useful article.