Music Rights Management on YouTube

Asserting Ownership

Decades ago, fans shared their favorite songs or performances on mixtapes. Today, that sharing and appreciation has moved online. Thousands of labels and rights holders have licensing agreements with YouTube to actually leave fan videos up and earn revenue from them. They agree that a world where fans express love for their favorite artists by uploading concert footage and remixes is something to be celebrated. And they see that fan-uploaded content can be a way to drive exposure and boost sales.

All of this is possible because Content ID automates rights management. When a fan uploads a video to YouTube, it is scanned against a database of content that has been provided by content owners. When it finds a match, it makes a claim on that video on behalf of the content owner and allows them to decide what they want to happen to that video. Only 0.5 percent of all music claims are issued manually; we handle the remaining 99.5 percent with 99.7 percent accuracy. Today, the revenue from fan-uploaded content accounts for 50 percent of music industry revenue on YouTube. 

Content ID has enabled YouTube to pay out billions of dollars to the music industry and that number is growing significantly year-on-year. That’s why it’s so surprising to see some labels and artists suggest that YouTube has allowed a flood of “unlicensed” music onto its platform, depriving artists of revenue. The truth is that YouTube takes copyright management extremely seriously and we work to ensure rights holders make money no matter who uploads their music. No other platform gives as much money back to creators-- big and small-- across all kinds of content.

Music License Management

It requires many different sets of rights to play a song on YouTube, and usually each of these rights is administered by a different party. Every time a song is used, YouTube payments must be split among dozens of these rights holders around the world, and everyone takes a piece along the way. 

We believe that transparency is critical to ensuring the music industry works for artists, so let’s take a look at the rights and rights holders that could be at play.

Master Use Rights

Usually, the record label that recorded the song will hold rights to the use of the master recording. Whenever the master recording is used in a video, the record label that controls that catalog is paid royalties for their ownership of the recording, which they share with the artist. It is not uncommon to see several labels work together to manage copyrighted sound recordings, with different labels being responsible for the rights in different territories. However, labels may not have the resources to deliver content or manage content on their own. In these cases, they may choose to work through an aggregator or distributor.

Public Performance Rights

All recorded pieces of music (master recordings) have an underlying musical work (the composition), and different sets of rights apply to this underlying work. For the purposes of YouTube, these rights can be split into two categories - public performance rights and other rights.

Public performance licenses are frequently controlled by performing rights organizations (PROs). PROs make sure bars, restaurants, hotel lobbies, etc. are paying for the music used in their establishments. When a song is streamed on YouTube, these organizations collect royalties to distribute to songwriters and music publishers to cover the public performance of the composition. Many times, entities called “collecting societies” will be responsible for these same duties in other countries. These organizations are designated to handle general rights management functions and will frequently offer blanket licenses, which allow the licensee to use the collecting society’s entire catalogue for a period of time, rather than acquiring individual licenses for each piece of work.

Other Rights

Other rights to a composition are typically controlled by publishers. Similar to record labels, some publishers may not have the resources to manage these rights on their own and may choose to have a larger entity manage the rights on their behalf. These entities will frequently function as aggregators or distributors. Again, collecting societies may be responsible for selling non-exclusive licenses to use the work and collect and distribute royalties in other countries.
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