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Advertising, Marketing & Promotions Alert >> YouTube’s Royalty-Free Audio Library Sounds Good. But, Agencies Beware

March 17, 2014

Facing increasing pressure to deliver high-volume, low-cost creative content for digital distribution, the rise of low-cost stock photography and stock video houses holds great appeal for advertising agencies.  Recently, YouTube has entered this marketplace with a royalty-free audio library that agencies, and others, can use for free, forever, and for any creative purpose – not just in YouTube videos. But, like other resources that seem too good to be true, there are risks.

YouTube Library
YouTube launched its audio library with over 150 royalty-free instrumental tracks, with a promise to grow this library over time.  YouTube allows users to incorporate the music from the library into videos and other audiovisual works at no cost.  The music, as incorporated in the videos, can be used worldwide and in perpetuity.  Moreover, users are not restricted to using these tracks only for YouTube videos; they are available for “all creative projects,” including projects that are monetized on YouTube.  The library is indexed so that users can browse the music tracks based on genre, mood, instrument, or duration. 

Copyright Question
In concept, the YouTube audio library appears to fill an important need.  Individual users who are tempted to use third-party music without authorization now have an alternative built right into YouTube.  Agencies, however, should recognize that YouTube makes it clear that all of its regular terms and conditions apply – including its disclaimer that all content is provided “AS IS.”  Like YouTube videos themselves, YouTube specifically states that it is not responsible for the intellectual property rights of or relating to the content and “expressly disclaims any and all liability” in connection with any content.  

In other words, YouTube is not warranting that the music in its library does not infringe any other party’s copyright.

This is not surprising when you realize that YouTube is sourcing the content for its music library in the same manner from the same sources that provide the video content on YouTube – its users.  

Certainly, the YouTube audio library is an attractive concept and YouTube is not a fly-by-night organization.  One might expect that YouTube has done at least some vetting on the copyright and other legal issues associated with the music it is providing. YouTube’s terms, however, quite clearly push the infringement risk completely on users. Simply put, the YouTube audio library is not like using traditional licensed music.


The Bottom Line

Agencies should proceed with caution before utilizing the free YouTube audio library. It is important to evaluate how the music will be used, and to make a risk assessment that considers other alternatives to this service.