I really appreciate YouTube where I can listen to old songs that I haven’t
heard in maybe 50 years or more and also people’s comments on them. I’d like to
reciprocate and upload the odd, old hit record from a past era, but when I
start, I get warnings about copyright laws and being sued, etc. If that’s the
case, then how do so many people continue to upload their old records? Is it
In this excerpt from
Answercast #73, I look at the problems in uploading copyrighted material to
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Copyrights on YouTube
Unfortunately, in general, yes, it is.
There’s a lot of music on YouTube. Some of it is actually uploaded by the
copyright holders. You’ll find a lot of current music is actually being
distributed or being made available on YouTube along with music videos as a way
of promoting the current artist’s work.
Older music gets a little bit “iffier.” Some record labels have done deals
with YouTube that allow people to upload their music – and you’ll find that
after the music has been uploaded and the videos made available, that there are
also links to actually go out and purchase that music from some of the online
Those rarely benefit you, the uploader, and they’re all about the copyright
being respected and legitimized by allowing the copyright holder to actually
make a little bit of money of your upload.
What can be uploaded
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for you to know when something is and is
not legal to upload.
Generally, if you’re not sure, it’s probably illegal. You should try and
check (if you can) to see if the record label has any kind of a deal with
YouTube or has any kind of an online statement. But in general, those are
difficult to find and to be honest, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
So, yes, enjoy what’s up there. Occasionally, you’ll find things that get
taken down by YouTube on request of the copyright holder specifically because
it was illegally uploaded.
You can try uploading something. It is possible that you would get
a take down notice – or that, in the worst case, your YouTube account could get
It’s rare that somebody gets sued, but I can’t rule that out as a
possibility, particularly if you end up uploading a lot.
Best to follow the rules
This is an area where I really recommend people tread very carefully.
Just because there’s a lot of music up there doesn’t mean that it’s all
legal! It just may mean that YouTube hasn’t gotten around to catching it yet;
or that the copyright holders haven’t gotten around to catching it yet.
It may mean that deals have been struck with YouTube to allow it, but it
doesn’t mean that you can upload anything you want.
It’s unfortunate. I think there’s a lot of possibility here. I think it
would be great if there were some more commonly available ways of doing what
you want to do in a legal fashion. I just don’t know what those are.
Copyright and the internet is a long and ongoing problem that is still in
many ways trying to get figured out.
So I would err on the side of safety and not upload the songs that you’re
not sure about. But continue to enjoy the ones that you find on YouTube for as
long as they happen to be there.
Next from Answercast 73 – My screen is scrambled on return from Standby. What can I do?