I see thousands of covers on YouTube. Are those illegal?
One of the prevailing misconceptions about YouTube is that it's perfectly legal to record a cover and put it on YouTube for the world to see. The reality is that it's more complicated than that.
First, we must say that any time you use a song that someone else owns the copyright to, you will need permission. This goes for any platform, including YouTube. Now we aren't saying every content creator on YouTube has reached out to the copyright holder and negotiated a license. In some cases, the videos you see have gone under the radar of the publishers who police this action, or the rights holders have claimed monetization on the video rather than taking it down. YouTube has also gone farther than other platforms in obtaining licensing for public performance, but that only covers one side of the permission needed. If you want your video to be legal, you will need direct permission from the copyright owner.