Copyright Matters

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    Hi everyone, although my account is not new, this happens to be my first day in joining discussion at the forums. So hello, I’m Seika and I’m currently a freshman studying harp performance and business at IU.

    Growing up in Silicon Valley has made me much interested in technology and as of recent, I would really like to develop a YouTube personality for my music. I have much admired those with already developed harp channels and inquired before about copyright, however find myself with no responses to my questions.

    From what I understand, covers of copyrighted material and pieces not under the free domain are considered infringement if licenses are not purchased. The necessary licenses are then a mechanical for recording, and an additional sycnchronization for music recorded with video.

    I suppose I don’t have specific questions yet but I was wondering if there is perhaps a publication of this issue that I could be redirected to for clarity on this matter? Or does anyone have any experience with their own YouTube channels? I would really appreciate more insight about this before I develop my own portfolio.

    Thanks so much!


    Hi Seika,
    As far as I know, if you’re concerned with classical music, as long as your performances and recordings are free and made public, then there is no copyright infringement. The issues arise when you try and make money, which only becomes a consideration on YouTube if you attempt to become a partner in order to make money off your channel. If you’re looking at pop music or anything else (and it sounds like you might be) the laws may be slightly different, and someone else will have to chime in.

    Angela Biggs

    There is a “fair use” potion to copyright law. A recording of less than 30 seconds is considered fair use; however, that’s only useful if all you want to post is a sample. I don’t know how this applies to a “video synch” license. If your music is out of copyright, you’re free and clear. *But*, companies that reprint public domain music can copyright their layouts and “arrangements,” so you have to be very careful about that.

    YouTube is a grey area. Some composers and companies are pretty easy-going about it. Nintendo, for example — [officially]( they never give anyone a mechanical license for any reason. On the other hand you’ll find harp arrangements of their video game music on YouTube, and nobody does anything about it.

    Basically, there isn’t any clarity, and for right now there is literally no way to know what kind of cover is legal on YouTube and what isn’t. This [Wired article]( from last May does a good job explaining the current situation.


    Hi Seika–great to see you on! Denise Grupp just wrote an article, [“The Lowdown on Music Downloads”]( for the latest issue of *Harp Column*. You might find it helpful.


    I’m not sure about actual laws, but I do know that we had a video on our channel of a friend dancing to a soundtrack and we received an email from YouTube telling us we had to remove it because of copyrights. So to a certain extent they are on top of things, though it’s probably harder for them when it is live music vs. a recording that is easily recognizable (if that makes sense).
    Also if you can’t find information, when you post to your channel make sure you credit the composer/arranger, etc. in the description and you can also add something like, “Any copyright infringement is unintentional, and will be remedied immediately.” So if someone contacts you and asks you to remove it, you will.

    Allison Stevick

    I agree with Angela. It’s really inconsistent what YouTube makes you remove. I have a couple videos of myself playing folk tunes–that I arranged–on my harp. 2 of them are fine, but apparently PART of one of them matches something copyrighted. I did not have to remove it, but I had to “acknowledge copyrighted material” even though it really is a public domain tune, I was playing it, and it was not copied from someone’s recorded version (that I know of. It doesn’t tell you what you’ve copied, just that at a certain time in your video there is copyrighted material). So, for now, I guess I just keep doing what I’m doing, and hope I don’t get any strikes on my account for copyright violations. Folk tunes–and anything else–in the public domain and privately arranged should be safe, in my opinion. But, I don’t get to make those rules… 🙂



    Gretchen Cover

    I appreciate the comments, too. I have been playing with a guitarist and he wants to post on youtube. I hope others will continue this thread.

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