A 2020 Music Licensing Guide to YouTube Content ID

What is YouTube‘s Content ID Program?

Content ID (CID) is a music digital fingerprinting and monetization service for YouTube. This system uses audio recognition to issue automated copyright claims for music in videos uploaded to YouTube. In theory, it’s a great concept to prevent unauthorized usage of music. Unfortunately, it’s far from perfect and conflicts with many types of music licensing. We thought a guide to YouTube Content ID as it pertains to Music licensing would be valuable for music creators.

How Does Music Get Into Content ID?

Music owners enter music into the CID program generally via one of the following three methods:

1. Music Distributor OPT-IN Option

It’s quite common for artists and labels to use companies such as CDBaby, TuneCore, DistroKid etc. to get their music on streaming services such as Spotify and iTunes Music etc. It’s important to note that having your music with these distributors or streaming services is not a conflict and it does not mean your music is in the Content ID system. What you need to look out for is an OPT-IN option within these services, and make sure you aren’t Opted In. They may have messaging such as “Monetize your music on YouTube” or something similar. This is generally how your music could end up in the Content-ID system.

2. Through a dedicated Content ID Partner Platform

Another method that music owners enter music into the CID system, is directly through Content ID partner platforms. These include companies like AdRev or Identifyy. The main purpose of these companies is to enter your music into the YouTube Content ID system.

3. Shady music licensing companies enter your music into the Content ID without you knowing

We are seeing more and more of this. An artist has their music in several music licensing companies, and one of these companies enters this artist’s music into the Content ID without the artist knowing. This will then cause copyright claims to occur for all the other licensing companies that license this artist’s music.

How is Content ID Problematic for Music Licensing?

Once your music is entered into the YouTube Content ID system, it will automatically initiate copyright claims for anyone that uploads a video containing your music. The only way to prevent these claims is if the owner whitelists the YouTube channel for that particular usage in advance. Sounds great no? Well not if you use music licensing services to get you licensing placements.

The problem is, there is no way for you to know in advance which client channels to whitelist, when you aren’t the one issuing the music license. It can be even more of a mess if you have several companies licensing your music.

What does this mean for clients who legitimately pay to license your music?

They will get a copyright claim immediately upon uploading their video containing your music to YouTube. This is not something that makes clients happy, that’s for sure! It also doesn’t help our business when clients call and yell at us for getting copyright claims after legitimately licensing music from us.

These automated copyright claims also override the client’s ability to monetize their own videos. This results in triggering ads to play on their videos. If a licensed video creator disputes a CID claim on YouTube; they can be forced to go through a lengthy dispute process for these claims to be lifted. Only then can they can properly use the music they legally licensed. However, if the claim is rejected, they will receive a permanent copyright strike. If they get 3 strikes, their entire YouTube channel will permanently be deleted.

Our Policy on Content ID

As music licensors at soundscape.io. Due to these inherent incompatibilities CID fingerprinting has with music licensing; we are working towards offering our clients a 100% claim-free experience. We are avoiding to represent music in the Content ID program, and educating our artists to understand the associated implications.

What if you don’t know if your music is in Content ID?

It’s important to definitively know if your music is in the CID system. It could get you booted out of libraries or worse if you misrepresent your music. We encourage our artists to reach out to licensing companies they work with. Request confirmation that their music hasn’t been entered into the CID system. Also, they can reach out to their music distribution companies that release their music to Spotify, Apple Music etc., and confirm this as well.

Often these companies will say things like “Make Money from YouTube” or similar language to entice artists to Opt Into this program. What they don’t mention is how this could negatively affect your music licensing efforts.

Here’s a handy trick to find out if your music is in CID. Make a video containing your music and upload it to YouTube yourself. If you get copyright claims, your music is in the CID, plain and simple. Check the claim to see which company initiated it (the claimant), and contact them for more info. If you didn’t knowingly authorize this, request to Opt Out of CID.

In Conclusion

This is more than an irritation for clients. It can lead to lost monetization revenue and even cause legal conflicts. Clients pay to legally license music. They expect not to be put at risk of getting copyright strikes and having their YouTube channel permanently deleted.

We know how much work goes into making music. So make sure to protect your interests and do your diligence. Know what’s going on with your music. Ensure access to the most opportunities and a long-term sustainable career in music.

Next see our blog on How to Write Music That Gets Licensed – Pro Tips.