Critical Info for Youtube Musicians Who Perform Cover Songs

Greets Friends. I am sitting in NYC’s Laguardia Airport on the way to the Bermuda Guitar Festival. Normally I would have spent the last 48 hours practicing my tail off for the show. This time was different.

I did get some practicing in, but I had an issue that became what I call “pants on fire” i.e. something that needed to be addressed right away…danger Will Robinson, danger!!! I spent this last 48 hours in front of the computer – namely re-encoding and uploading videos to a new channel on Youtube. Why, you ask? Read on….

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Why Youtube is Critical for Musicians

As you probably know, Youtube is critical for musicians at this point in time. No longer is a record company or magazine review needed to get in front of people’s eyeballs – all you need is a self produced video and an internet connection to reach fans worldwide.

My entire fingerstyle guitar career has materialized through my youtube videos and presence – and I am not the only guy who can say this. I think it has helped countless musicians presents themselves to fans, concert promoters, and sell CD’s and DVD’s, book workshops and who knows what else. Many musicians have gotten a boost from this incredibly genius, earthshaking (but really friggin’ stupid) website called Youtube. I know I have.

Watch the Video, Click the Textbox onscreen To Subscribe to the NEW channel:


In my case my 2 most popular videos are Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. As you may know, I released a Stevie Wonder instructional guitar DVD teaching the arrangements I play on Youtube. All the marketing, customer base, etc is from youtube.

Cover tunes help musicians “get out there”. You might not search for a new artist, especially if you have never heard of them. The Beatles, Stones and Led Zeppelin were cover bands which wove their own material in. Hence, cover tunes are helping me immensely!

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By the Way, Youtube is one HUGE Copyright Infringement Platform

Here’s the rub. All of my cover tunes on Youtube – and anyone’s cover tunes on Youtube are flat out, no questions asked copyright infringement. Yep, if you are not paying for a license, it is copyright infringement. Does not matter if you did it for fun and not for money, does not matter if it is YOU playing the song. Copyright Violation. Period. Grow up if you wnat to argue or think otherwise!

This poses quite a dilemma. My “new fan” traffic comes from people searching the tune titles – not me, as far as I can tell. They find me via the tune connection, and like magic, I have new fans. These infringing videos are critical to my career, as you can see. Few people start out by caring about Adam’s or anyone’s originals – relatively speaking. However when they find my Billie Jean, they flip out!

(EMI told me a one year license for one tune is about $2500. I may even pay for a tune or two – more to come in another blog post.)

So if you do ANY cover tunes AT ALL – you better keep reading and get real with yourself about where it is all heading.

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Youtube Account Deletion – It’s Happening More Than Ever!

Several musicians have had their entire accounts from Youtube deleted after achieving a high profile through popular videos of cover songs. That’s all videos, comments, messages, friends and subscribers gone all at once.

This really would suck for me if it happens. I have 11 thousand people who have subscribed to my channel, and I’d lose contact with them. Ouch! That’s fans and customers. It’s like the ultimate targeted mailing list for an artist gets destroyed.

Glowing comments that show concert promoters that I have fans. Fans means ticket sales to them, so part of my presentation for concerts is based on my youtube presence.

It does not matter if many many other people play the same cover song as you on Youtube. YOU or I could be singled out, have videos removed and once you have an account in “bad standing” and get 3 offenses, your account is deleted.

Youtube – for the geniuses you are, how could you be so moronic to have set up a website where copyright infringement is so easy, and then hurt users so badly in a seemingly random, inconsistent fashion?

What really sucks the big one is that Youtube is totally inconsistent in how they deal with offenders. Also – the more popular you become, the more of a target you become as publishers search their own tunes and report to Youtube on who to axe.

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Warner Music Group
It appears that songs administered by Warner it seems are the most dangerous to use. Once Warner bitches to Youtube about a video, youtube says “Uncle” by flagging, maybe deleting your account. UMG seems to do ad overlays on videos of cover songs which is a much nicer, less hurtful thing to do.

Don’t Believe Me?
Naudo is a guitarist whose instrumental covers were very popular had his account deleted. Read here:

A friend just informed me that his instrumental guitar version of “What a Wonderful World” was deleted and his account is now in bad standing. His buddy, a beatboxer, had 30K subscribers and his account was deleted because he did covers.

A teen girl singing Winter Wonderland got deleted.

The official word here:

This makes me very nervous, to be honest which is why I am taking action before there is a problem.

My concert booking and DVD and CD “pipeline” is my Youtube channel due to my covers – particularly Billie Jean and Superstition along with other popular covers.

After thinking long and hard, I have come up with an action plan of solutions that I am implementing that you may want to consider for yourself to stay afloat in this tricky minefield. Read all of them to get a picture mentally before you implement anything.

[psst – subscribe to the new adam rafferty channel here]

9 Solution Action Steps

Step 1 – Write your own tunes, or use public domain tunes!
Build up a body of your own material and why not check out traditionals, hyms, and look up the definition of “public domain” tunes. This way no one can ever accuse you of copyright violation. Not easy but legal! Get started. I am amazed that people on Youtube learn my material.

God bless those of you like Andy McKee, Tommy Emmanuel, Don Ross and so on. You guys who have well loved original tunes. No one can ever take you down for your originals!

Step 2 – Create a Copyright-Infringement-Free youtube account if you are infringing (i.e. if you have any cover tunes you did not write) on your current account. I am in the process of launching a new youtube channel which will have my original tunes, lessons (not of songs though), messages to fans, rants and so on. YES – I do covers so I am infringing. Let’s call a spade a spade.

Here is the new non infringing channel – and yes, I am asking you to subscribe here in one click right now:

Here is the old channel – subscribe here too, but who knows what the future brings. This is where the cover tunes are:

Of course you can delete infringing videos from your current account but that’s what we want to avoid. Or – we want to get the max out of the infringing videos yet not suffer the full blow of punishment! :-)

Step 3 – If you must do covers (and I must!) then consider uploading your videos of covers to several other video sites. Hint – check out to make this easy. Just do a google search on “best youtube alternatives” to get educated about where you can host videos. Vimeo, Viddler, Dailymotion are a few.

Remember – if these are infringements, they can at one point be removed from those sites too….but proceed to Step 4.

Here are a few links to my Billie Jean and Superstition on other sites. Yes other video sites exist! I’ll probably embed these….

Step 4 – Put a “pointer” video on Youtube so that a search on Youtube points to a video on a different video site. Unfortunately, Youtube is the 500 LB gorilla and searches are done there more than any other video site.

As soon as I do one, I will link it here for you.

I plan to put up pointer videos – which means if you search “Michael Jackson Billie Jean Guitar” for example, you’ll get a video of me talking, not playing. I’ll say something like “Hi everyone, I am playing nice with Youtube and have a link below this video screen so you can see me play Billie Jean on another site”.

If you have several versions of the same video up across several sites, and one gets deleted, you can always change the link to view the video on some “other site” but retain the search capabilities of Youtube with a non-infringing video – the pointer video. I repeat – we want to take advantage of the Youtube search function, but the infringing material is not on the Youtube server. All that’s on the Youtube server is a pointer video you (or me) talking and a link.

Step 5 – Don’t upload exact duplicate video files from your old to your new channel.

I started re-uploading videos and saw that there might be an issue with 2 accounts uploading exact duplicate files. No sweat. Just go into your original movie editing files and re-output the movie with a few seconds extra on the file, maybe different compression. If the file size and play length are different that “ought” to make the Youtube system see them as 2 different videos.

Step 6 – Do this while your infringing account is active – before anything bad happens It’s like insurance. Easier and less expensive to deal with before disaster strikes.

Step 7 – Put up a new announcement video on the old channel announcing the new channel and urge subscribers to re- subscribe.

Step 8 – (Optional) I may even do an audio-swap on the original infringing videos if I get flagged. More to come on that, as I am not decided yet. I could keep the old vid up with an audio swap, retain the lovely comments and have the old video “point” to another vid.

Step 9 – Get a new habit!!! Watch videos on other sites and don’t be lazy! EAsier said than done. Youtube has to be slightly decentralized so that we are all not at their mercy. What a pain in the ass this is becoming. Excuse my French.

[psst – subscribe to the new adam rafferty channel here]

ADAM’S PROPHECY for 2012 :-)

The days of posting copyrighted material for free will come crashing down and screeching to a halt just like the golden age of when everyone thought that gigabytes and gigabytes of mp3’s were and should be free. I’t only a matter of time. I’d rather prepare than get caught blindsided!

For example, I can type in “Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life” on a Youtube search and I get a nice little playlist of the whole ORIGINAL album, with the visual being a scan of the record cover. Millions and millions of plays and no one – Stevie or the publisher gets paid just because a random person felt like sharing it. IN ALL FAIRNESS – WHAT IF THAT WERE YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY? If someone shared my instructional material for which I get paid I would be very upset.

This will not last. No one is getting paid for the plays. And sorry – music should not be free unless it’s your creation and you decide to give it away for free.

FYI Here is a nifty video that I found on restoring suspended accounts.

Good luck and be prepared!


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  1. says

    Good tip Adam, I’ve been thinking about it for a while. Even though I’m only a small fish on youtube with just 5,700 subscribers as of today, it’s all covers, so it’s only a matter of time before I get cancelled.

    There needs to be a new model. Something that gives the fair dues to the _artist_, but allows us all to enjoy covers. It’s a similar problem to what napster was, you might say it is “less” a problem because it’s a cover not the real thing, but an infringement is an infringement no matter how “small” it is.

    It doesn’t matter for me, I’ve got a day job so my livelihood doesn’t depend on promoting myself, it’s just for fun and I get a kick out of inspiring others to pursue playing fingerstyle, The Best Fun You Can Have Standing Up :) But for you, there needs to be a happy midplace of promotion via covers. Paying $2500 to play a cover for a year is definately not it. Something akin to cover bands in pubs fee; Youtube makes money from your covers being on it – make no mistake – in the same way a band doing covers in a pub can bring more beer-buying patrons; maybe youtube needs to pay some sort of fee?

    Ain’t gonna happen though, it’s not the youtube model. It was never intended to be something that hosts copyrighted material. “But we’re doing alright from it anyway thank you very much”…

    It’s a tough area. I own a copy of Dark Side of the Moon, and I have made fingerstyle arrangements of nearly all the songs (a long term pet project). But I don’t make any money out of ever playing them on youtube or to an audience, so, quite frankly, I don’t intend on paying money for the right to play them – I’d probably just stop playing them for an audience. However, one day I might make an instructional DVD (even longer term pet project) and if I do I will enter into a mutually agreeable arrangement with the copyright holders. Ha, if that is even possible.

    But in the meantime, I will follow your advice there, and persist in being an ever-so-slight-misfit fingerstyle cover player.

    I’m just glad I saw the writing on the wall for Naudo and had downloaded every video him and Juan posted before his account was shutdown. I’m in the process of doing the same for all of Igor Presnyakov’s videos.

    Viva le revolution! (whatever it is and whenever it comes)

  2. Dave Id says

    The license model is unbalanced. I pay to use a cover for the benefit of publicity, and maybe some indirect sales of tickets etc. So, the real revenue generated by my cover is advertising impressions and hits. So what do youtube pay? Something maybe but not $2500 per instance of the tune, or even per tune. And how many sales of the original do they get from the cover? I bought Hey Ya after learning Matt Tweddle’s version……Seems the big artists have a role to play in putting this in the pocket. .

  3. SlowhandKev says

    Great Post! Firefox has a free add on called Download Helper that automatically downloads YouTube videos to your hard drive in multiple formats…
    You are ahead of the game and I know you’ll be even more succesful in the future.

  4. Maddox says

    I honestly think in many cases the record companies are not seeing the bigger picture. While YouTube videos themselves may not generate revenue for them it can still generate other revenue.

    Here is a perfect example. One day several years ago I stumbled upon a video of Eva Cassidy singing Over The Rainbow live. Now the video was uploaded by a non-authorized source and I believe was eventually removed but I was enamored by her and wanted to see more. Because of that video I found that there was an official CD and DVD of that concert and I immediately, legally, purchased both, even going so far as to purchase the DVD from Amazon UK. I have also purchased several of her other CDs. All because I saw an unauthorized video on Youtube. Without those videos I probably still would not even know who she is and those sales would have never been made.

    Using you as an example Adam, If your videos cause me to buy your cds and dvds, for which I assume you paid the rights for all the cover songs, then isn’t that good for them also?

    The record companies really need to start reviewing these on a case by case basis instead of using some type of bot to make decisions for them. To me there is a big difference between Adam playing Superstition on his guitar vs someone who simply uploads the cd audio with a single album graphic as the video image.

  5. says

    Hi Adam, Jeroen here. Thanks so much for sharing/warning ! Isn’t it an idea to wait for a first flag? And then take action? Or is it possible that they delete all in once? When the time is there I think I will defintly follow your advice. I only think I will get the covers of my “normal” channel and post them on a new site.

    I also thought of changing the title and delete the tags. For instance for not naming the song “Yesterday – beatles” but famous song by a band from Liverpool….. mmm sounds like a stange idea now that I write it. But the people who favorited it will have it still in the fav.

    Anyway let’s play more originals and Bach :) to see it from the bright side :) though your right, less people are interested and searching for that.

    Thanks again!! Your friend


  6. says

    You’ve got some good preventative measures, but you’re still narrowing it down to just YouTube. Why not open up another distribution channel that ISN’T a video? How about flyers, blogs, business cards, a real website, and coffehouse demonstrations?

    Just some thoughts..

    • says

      Well great idea, but it’s a numbers game. Online video is free, fast and people love seeing and hearing a musician. In comparison, flyers and biz cards can’t travel around the world in minutes.

      Of course a website is needed, and gigs are too.

      My vids though have done more for my career in terms of booking and purchases than printed material or live gigs. Crazy world….

  7. says

    How about every time you perform, encourage your audience to make videos, especially of your cover songs, and upload them to YouTube. Few people have large enough accounts to attract that much attention, and you can still point people to those videos as examples of your performances.

    It’s not a perfect solution, but it gets the fans involved.

    • says

      Yes, that is a great long term approach. That way, a “person” can’t be deleted. In the meantime, I’m th emain guy putting my vids up – but you are 100% thinking right. Thanks!

      • JAW says

        The problem with fan videos is that they are usually mobile phone, jerky and poor sound. I reckon that _detracts_ from the performance – it’s more negative than it is positive. Of course if a fan hooks up a nice HD video on a stand up the front and gets an audio feed from the system, and then uploads – well that’s a different story :) But how many artists who are using youtube as a primary means of “advertising” could actually organise for such a thing to happen, even with the offer of money/beer, let alone a fan that does it of his own accord?!

        Maybe that’s the ticket Adam, give free front row tickets to everyone with a good system that volunteers to record and publish your concerts :)


  8. Emma says

    Hi again, Adam!

    Thanks for the YouTube tips.

    Are you still in Bermuda? I only ask because I’m stayiong in NYC for a few days and if you were performing anywhere would love to come and see you!

  9. says

    One more thing you need to know. If you have multiple accounts on YouTube be certain that every single account has an individual e-mail address. I lost three channels yesterday because Range Road Music filed on me for having a one minute clip of a New Orleans Brass Band playing What a Wonderful World in the lobby of Harrah’s Casino in N.O. that was up for three years and I had totally forgotten about its existence. My first two strikes came from ARC Music, since sold to Fuji, nearly two years ago. Those songs were Big Boss Man and Susie Q.
    I’m not upset about the music channel I had, but I’m sick about losing my Wormfarmergeorge channel that helped hundreds of people understand the benefits of raising worms for castings, composting and organic gardening. It fell victim because it was tied to the same e-mail address.
    They even suspended my Gmail account and demanded a cell phone number so I could get a code and be able to read my mail. I’ve never had a cellphone. I had to ask a friend to take the text and call me on my land line. I’ve filed a counter claim to try and get my accounts back, but now they can sue me if they wish to be assholes and they probably will. If I get them back, I will delete all of my YouTube channels except for Wormfarmergeorge, and trash over 600 videos of local Austin Texas bands that had well in excess of two million total video views. I’ve gradually grown to hate YouTube. It takes hours to figure out how to contact them and then all you get is a form letter response with no human involvement. I like your music and wish you good luck man.

    • says


      That is just awful. I have read a lot about youtube and am in the process of de-centralizing. Also – in older tune titles I am including “*” characters to make finding them tougher. I linked one account to a google account and will not fall for that one again.

      I think you can get the account back, keep googling on the appeals process. Also, twitter and blog about your experience.

      Also – I have downloaded all my vids as FLV files (smaller files = easier) and will load them up on EVERY video site I can find to de-centralize.

      I just learned in marketing that one can’t have an SPOF – single point of failure – and I am well aware that so much traffic comes from YOUTUBE, should the account go down it is a single point of failure.

      For them to squash little guys is so stupid. It’s like stepping on a roach and there are 10K behind the wall. With 200K signups a day, they can’t monitor copyrights. Yet, they do police porn…so maybe they know that copyrighted material makes their site interesting….

      Good luck. You will resurrect your following – like a millionaire who loses it can make the next million. It’s just a pain in the ass, that’s all!

      – AR

    • Jon says


      That sucks youtube took all your videos. I wanted to watch a few videos and I am new to worm farming. Is it possible you can post some of your videos online or can you send some videos to me??? Please let me know. Thanks

    • says

      George Wormfarmer

      Just get the FLV files and go on an upload rampage…viddler, sevenload and other sites. Use youtube for pointers and ads.

      Rebuild the YT account as well. only without violations.

      I am surprised and inspired to see demand from fans of deleted accounts. Someone re-uploaded all fretkillr’s videos.

      I bet someone could come up with a great service…$20 a month to monitor your yt account, and if stuff gets deleted, re-upload and contact all the subscribers.



  10. Lisa says

    Great info! I am trying to find out how maybe using “fair use and parody” could help in putting up cover songs? How do people use all those Beatles covers- with new lyrics on youtube get away with it- ? Because it’s considered “parody”??
    Legally you can use parody/fair use without permission- but it’s hard to find out the details?
    If for eg. I make a cover recording- license it through Harry Fox legally to sell the recording on Itunes and then make a parody video of some recent news footage- with the tune as bg music with a link to buy the song on itunes- could this work?
    Or could the publisher say you need a “synch” license?
    -The record co/publishers should just put an ad across “cover songs to buy the originals” and that way everyone could profit!
    Use us as free commercial makers..
    -Do you know if a person can get sued for just “one” upload youtube doesn’t like- or just warned..?
    My friend advised me to call the publisher and just ask and when i did the legal dept just said I can’t offer any advice..
    -so it’s hard to figure out how to proceed…
    thanks Adam for your great discussion!

  11. says

    Hi Adam-
    Thanks for the interesting post. I’m working on a videosong for a masters class that will be a cover of a copyrighted work. The song is not in the database and the writer has passed away. It’s not a very well known song and has not seen much commercial success, having been recorded only by a few other artists after the original.

    I will be posting the finished videosong to YouTube and it will have a single public performance during the masters class recital on a university campus.

    Should I be concerned about copyright in this case? Does educational use cover this type of thing? Does the public performance cause any problem, even if it is on a university campus for a class?

    Thanks for your help!

  12. says

    The author dealt with several interesting things here. I came across this by searching Msn and I must admit that I am now subscribed to your blog, it is extremely good 😉

  13. Milan says

    Yep, i got busted last summer. My account got suspended, never could talk to anybody at YouTube…end of story. Had couple of millions of views, tons of subscribers, tons of clips uploaded….

    • says

      Would you mind, for all our sake – telling us what songs you uploaded so that we may avoid them?

      I’d be very curious as to who nailed you and for what song.

      Thank you!
      – AR

  14. Dave says

    Excellent, excellent article. I haven’t seen any other article that comes close to so thoroughly explaining the situation, and yeah from many comments I’ve read about YouTube, Napster, bit torrent, etc., an awful lot of people need to grow up and face the reality about copyright laws. Nice job detailing some survival strategies. One popular YouTube musician I follow has been able to release a couple of independent CDs because he gained a large following from making cover videos. His channel got shut down abruptly because of his cover of “What a Wonderful World.” He convinced the publisher to withdraw their complaint, so he got his channel back, but he was clearly not prepared for it and was living in denial basically.

    YouTube was started by, and is now run by, assholes who benefited hugely (on the order of billions of dollars) from people uploading infringing content, then successfully deflected responsibility, and now punish the very people who made them successful. The musician I mentioned has 82,000,000 views of his videos and over 600,000 subscribers. Successful YouTubers like this made the founders super rich and led to YouTube becoming a critical search engine for musicians (and others I’m sure), and they are treated like dirt.

    But your attitude is perfect—this is a valuable tool, use it, be aware of the possible consequences and plan accordingly.

    • says


      Thanks. I am starting to see marketers do something new with videos, and I am intrigued. Sort of on, but off topic.

      I have seen guys post a vid on their site, and embed a facebook comment app on their site.

      As people comment, comments get posted on not only the vid page, but the facebook wall of the commenter – thereby making a new way that things can go viral.

      The video hangs out on a web page, and the comments are embedded AND reported back to users facebook walls – separating the hosting of the potentially infringing material and the community aspect. WOW.

      I suspect google / youtube will cleverly stay one step ahead – but with the ever growing communities – ning, facebook, twitter and God knows what else, hopefully the “only” viewing community will not be youtube.

      The marketers and porn guys are always the innovators online! Go figure… :-)

      As far as covers – I have been trying to license Michael Jackson’s music and can hardly get an email back. I seriously doubt that they are out squashing insects when they have bigger fish to fry. They won’t even answer a guy tring to pay them. If they don’t have time for requests – I doubt they’ll squash people doing covers.

      They’re smart. More is more. They see that.

      I do plan to put the brakes on my covers – but I also suspect that old school publishers are seeing the hopelessness of trying to keep things “the way they were”, or at least they will soon.

      It just ain’t that way anymore and their day is done. New game now. Seth Godin – in TRIBES discusses how the old gatekeepers won’t give up their hopes of it returning to the old way.

      After shutting down 1000 channels with “What a Wonderful World” someone has to ask – “how many hours did we pay someone to do the witch hunt, and was the witch hunt even worth it? Where do we stand now?”

      We’ll see where it goes. Muy interesante – but stressful, since my income is directly related to my youtube channel! Often I wonder “what if…” – buit I am paying attention to all fronts. We’ll see.

      – AR

  15. Brad Imsdahl says

    So far, I only post my original music on YouTube, as I don’t want to infringe on someone else’s copyright. However, I obviously do not get many hits or subscribers as nobody knows who I am. I would like to start posting cover songs in an attempt to get more people to find my channel. I would like to see YouTube negotiate an option to license cover songs with the copyright holders on behalf of those of us posting cover songs on YouTube. For example, we upload a cover song to YouTube. Then, YouTube in turn charges us the license fee for the right to keep that cover song on our channel. YouTube already offers other services for a fee, such as the promotion feature which is based on the number of hits our promoted videos get during the promotion period. YouTube could track the number of hits our cover video gets and charge a per hit fee. We have the option to take down the video at anytime once we decide we no longer want to pay for the right to broadcast our cover video.

    • says

      Yes, that would be smart. But they are dumb and teh whole thing is a mess…mainly – the OLD music biz people can’t get their heads wrapped around a new way of doing things!

      Talk soon! Thanks for posting….


  16. mat says

    Hello Adam

    And what if a guy would open a new account with every third video he posts on youtube. Doing so, he would have a certain number of accounts with two videos on each and of course would name his accounts XXX1, XXX2, XXX3 for easier referencing by susbscribers that would know they only need to susbscribe once but can visit all accounts. Of course, the total number of views would never be displayed, as being the sum of the partial accounts, but i think particular hits on a specific video are more important than the total number.
    By pairing videos instead of putting them all in the same basket makes mutual vulnerability way lesser. Does this make sense or I am off the mark?
    Thanks for that useful blog anyway.

    • says

      Actually you are on the mark!

      I read about a movie reviewer who had a youtube channel, and for every movie clip he used he had the clip & review on a seaparate channel, but favoritied on his main channel, and instructed subscribers to subscribe to his favorites rather than uplaods.

      The whole thing is so f**d, people are gonna cave in I bet and let people just do uploads of everything…the cat’s out of the bag at this point…squashing infringing vids is like killing bugs on a summer day, there are always more.

      However, I find it interesting that when embarrasing things happen to CNN for example, they’ll use the copyright card to get vids removed…


  17. Jeff C. says

    This is very interesting. I think a large part of the problem is that music publishing companies are still stuck in the pre-internet era and so far have not been able to accept the fact that you can no longer control every aspect of marketing. I work in a marketing department for a large organization and we still have many dinosaurs in our leadership who cannot grasp the power and marketing potential of facebook, youtube, and other social media channels – instead of using these mediums to let the freedom of information flow, they shun them (until they see their competitors figure it out). The reason they shun them is because ROI is so hard to determine, you are basically taking a leap of faith.

    This is where I disagree with one thing you said, Adam:

    “Millions and millions of plays and no one – Stevie or the publisher gets paid just because a random person felt like sharing it.”

    I believe that Stevie and the publisher ARE getting paid more than you realize. For instance, when I’m at my 8-5 desk job, I’ll pop on to youtube to look for some great music. I stumble upon a video of Stevie’s, and I fall in love with it. Now I want to go to the gym and I’m hooked on that song, so what do I do? Pop over to ITunes and buy it. Had it not been on YouTube I never would have purchased it. And that ‘Free’ view may ultimately lead me to purchase multiple albums.

    As another example, consider this chain of events. I saw your Billie Jean cover and loved it, so I did a search to see if any other covers came close. Found a wonderful version by Gareth Pearson. Did more reading on him and I was hooked – bought his album. Started watching his YouTube videos and he had covers of Tommy Emmanuel. Hooked again – bought three of Tommy’s albums. And when I purchased your album it wasn’t because of your Billie Jean cover, it was because of your originals – however I wouldn’t have found them if not for that first cover.

    I’m like you, I’m interested to see what is going to happen with cover songs. I believe the reason they haven’t jumped all over this faster is because THEY aren’t sure if they would ultimately be shooting themselves in the foot.

    • says

      Thanks for the thoughtful post Jeff! No – we do in fact agree. What I meant was it’s not a one to one relationship with plays on YT – like one view = a $ amount.

      There are more smoke & mirrors involved than before.

      I do find it interesting though that now, YT’ers are seeking to monetize with ad overlays and piggy back a successful video rather than attempt to squash it out.

      “If ya can’t beat ’em – join ’em” attitude…

      All the best


  18. Al says

    Hi Adam, thanks for all the info. Being a cover musician for years & transitioning into original work, this issue has become a concern of mine. My new band is mostly originals but we use covers to fill out our set. But with the new crackdowns this may become a thing of the past. Just so everyone is aware, the ASCAP SESAC crackdown is NOT limited to large areas and venues. I live in a rural town in northeast Nebraska. A smaller, neighboring town of less than 1000 people has a small bar that hosted a jam night on saturdays. 3 weeks ago a rep from one of the licensing agencies came in and shut it down. I feel this is getting ridiculous. Our recording engineer also informed me that SESAC is sending out people to Omaha clubs and bars to seek out infringment. So be warned local musicians! If the long arm of SESAC & ASCAP has reached our little area, it is everywhere!

  19. says

    Absolutely, music should NOT be free!!!!! Thankyou for making a point of saying that. I am an artist, and I have lost count of the number of times I have heard some numbnut say that. Some cretin with his/her head up his/her ass. The day that my speakers, recording equipment, sound libraries, music production software, microphones, pre-amps, cables, sound isolators, headphones, marketing tools, healthcare, vocal training and maintenance, CD’s, DVD’s, electricity, performance costumes, years of music training and education……shall I go on???…….the day that ALL of THAT is FREE, is that day that we can talk about my work being free.
    How ’bout that.

    – EvaEva

  20. Commamder Chaos says

    How about making life difficult for the big guys/trolls? Titles aren’t copyright…..I’m seriously thinking of posting up my own composition entitled “what a wonderful world” I can still tag it with the words “trumpet” and “Louie Armstrong” as those are not copyright terms, however, people searching for what a wonderful world by Louie Armstrong would be directed to my video, therefore generating more hits for me. Plus I would add an annotation as to why i’d posted it up, exhorting people who’d had their cover versions deleted to give me at least ten “plays” to bump up my views and eventually bump the “real” version down the ratings, and of course i’d give my express permission to anyone else to do their own cover and do the same.
    Just a thought….

  21. dlewis78 says

    Does the pointer videos really work or do you lose viewers? Does anyone have any information on this?

  22. says

    I have to disagree with most of this. You may copyright a recording, however that does not give you the right to not allow anyone else to play it with their own instrument. If you subscribe to this idea then technically you have cut your own throat because every combination of the 12 notes possible in music has already been played and it is therefore impossible for you to play anything that has not already been copyrighted.

    You may as well give up and sell off all of your equipment because anything you play is now grounds for a lawsuit. I find this to be most disturbing because ideas are built upon knowledge gained from past ideas. I really don’t care what these laws say, I have every right to play any song on my guitar and if the greed of others tries to infringe on my rights, well you got a fight on your hands buddy.

    So before you so proudly proclaim that “Music should not be free” you need to stop and think about what you are saying. Because what you are really saying is that speech should not be free, ideas should not be free, and we should not be free. All this so that some lawyers can make a few bucks at the expense of someone who just wants to learn how to play music?

    Sure if they are using something you recorded yourself that is one thing, but to
    take away the rights of anyone to play their own instrument, that is going too damn far. Copyrights are intended for products, not ideas and the moment you use them as such you have trashed the very foundation that freedom was built upon.

  23. gfdgfgd says

    interesting how I find guys like you moaning and bitching about ‘ what’s the problem? I just want to play my covers. Warner Bros is a pain in the ass. Waaaaaah!’

    Yeah, deal with it, songs written by others is intellectual property. I am a musician too but it would be good to see that we all grow up instead of bitching about copyright laws.

    I respect you as a musician but I don’t understand how you can’t be worried about a record company giving you serious trouble, which is certainly not what I want to happen to you, but keep your eyes open man, remember that woman who uploaded 13 songs through P2P and was fined 250000 dollars. She’ll be in debt for the rest of her life.

    Yes, record companies etc are mean, so keep your eyes open and look at what is rather than looking at ‘how it should be’

    • says

      Actually – the vibe has changed since the writing of this post. Record companies ARE in fact looking to “piggy back” and advertise on top of cover videos….they realize “duh, cover artists are helping us market!!!!”

      People who use the ACTUAL cover recording are the ones in danger on Youtube…new algorhythms will catch it as you upload….

      I’ll post again with more info! Thank you!

  24. Rhonda says

    What do you mean the vibe has changed? [[People that actualy use cover recordings.]] We just put a cover song in yesterday (didn’t think it was a bad thing cause so many other bands had that same song) and in one day audio was removed. Was it because it was to good. It was good, but I don’t think it sounded like the ACTUAL cover.

  25. says

    Everytime we put an 30 sec to 1 minute intro in front of our videos, we don’t have any problems (knock on wood). Even with the video that we did, the message just said we may see ads on the videos, it hasn’t been removed. The vibe is changing because labels are able to monetize. Some will still report, but that’s starting to become the exception rather than the norm.

    • says

      Did you or your band play it, or was it a snippet of the original recording – because they have digital “algorhhthms” in place that detect a match to licensed recordings.

      Please tell us if it in fact was “your” cover version performed by you or a snip of the ORIGINAL audio. Thanks.

      • says

        Hi Adam,

        We’ve done all covers, using music found on YouTube. The first cover we did was a straight cover, no intro. And we did receive a warning from YouTube of “Content Match” but it wasn’t threatened to be removed, it just said we may see ad overlays on it. The second one we did, we found a track that was re-created, slightly in a higher key and we added our own lyrics, but the arrangement was still the same. That’s the one we did a 1 minute intro on.

        The lastest one was the exact track, all we added was a guitar rift and once again did the 1 minute intro and so far for these last two, we have not received the YouTube Content ID warning. Certain songs we won’t do. Like anything by Prince or any artist of Warner Brothers because of how notorious they are with YouTube. But so far (knocking on that wood again), we haven’t had any problems.

  26. says

    Very interesting discussion. I’m currently considering creating a video to advertise a duly licensed cover I recorded, which is legally on sale on iTunes and CDBaby (I paid quite a lot for the licence). The licensing people say the licence is valid only for the downloadable mp3 itself, but I’m wondering if a video advertising the CDBaby (or iTunes) link, and containing an extract (or a few extracts) from the mp3, would fall foul of the rules. I’d be interested in your views on that.

  27. Rhonda says

    Replied on your responce higher in this feed. but I’ll reply here to. My husbend and his band did the song he sang it they played it. They are good real good but not the ORIGINAL.

    • says

      Rhonda – the Eagles are absolutely notorious for taking down covers of their songs. I know lots of people who did “Hotel California” and it was removed immediately.

      I bet the search your title and I know they scan the sound…

      They didn’t shut his channel, did they? Only took the vid down?

  28. Rhonda says

    Only removed the audio. And put a notice under the video. You could look it up if you want, it’s under bumsrushband scrole down to victum of love. Not even good video, audio was good. Just did it with a camera. Bass players wife put it on youtube for me. No they didn’t shut the channel. That channel just got opened two days ago to put that video on it and it got popped. How crazy is that when you didn’t even know there was going to be an issue. Now two days after the channel was opened the only video on it got the audio cut and I’m talking to you.

    • says

      Different copyright holders do different things…it’s the copyright holders that instruct YouTube what to do. Prince, Van Morrison, Simon and Garfunkel and the Eagles are very extreme in the removal of audio, and in the past – full channel shut downs.

      Other copyright holders simply claim their stake so that they can advertise on top of your video and simply leave it put.

      This is actually way smarter….cd sales are next to nil, and they are realizing that overlaying adverts is a way to monetize the song since music has essentially become free.

      Wacky World. I got a copyright violation notice for a classical piece by JS Bach!

      • says

        What! I thought JS Bach was public domain (if you’re playing the piece) – I know that people can take out copyright on their versions of public domain material (so again, play yours).
        I’m reading this post with much interest. I’m a little fish in this discussion but I put up covers, some of which are so far away from the original arrangement to be almost a different song (but not, obviously).
        I’m thinking that I should just do instructional vids, not as much fun but hassle free unless they start copyrighting scales and arpeggios!
        I’ve got about 4 matched content notices but they’re still playing – every time I go into the “what’s going on” page they tell me to chill out and let the ads in which doesn’t bother me at all.
        Will now have to look at acknowledgment of these videos.
        Cheers for an informative discussion

  29. says

    Beat you there Adam, I got a copvio notice for a song by John Dowland, even earlier than Maestro Johann! Still, they accepted my argument that it is my arrangement and my performance … I think, LOL.
    (Still working on the images for the video I mentioned earlier)

  30. Rhonda says

    Don’t get me wrong I DO understand about the copyright laws and all that. My husbend has a few songs he’s written himself but the band doesn’t play them because he hasn’t copyrighted them yet.
    The part I’m upset about is DARN WE JUST PUT THAT UP THERE.
    Was put in on the afternoon of one day gone the audio gone the next morning.

    • says

      David – excellent arrangements but even if it is “duly licensed” that does not mean it’s so for video! Print, Video and CDs are 3 different licenses.

      I suspect no one will have a problem with your vid though!

  31. says

    Great post Adam, thanks!! I’m a guitar teacher — and my very first YouTube video — done in fun and naivete — was a cover. It garnered over 150.000 views in a couple of months without me doing a thing!

    This was 2008 or so. I followed that with 2 more partial cover song lessons due to “fan” request.

    Just after that time I started building my guitar lesson website. I wanted to avoid the kind of trouble you are talking about — so I consulted with a music lawyer as well as a synch licensing board here in Canada.

    I was frustrated with what I found out — because I knew it would be much easier to teach covers and gain an audience.
    And I saw other musicians getting popular through the use of covers.

    But I decided to stand my ground and teach only lessons that I create and therefore own. It’s been a lotta work!! But reading your post helped me realize I’m on the right path — for me :-)

    I haven’t even accepted YouTube’s offers of partnership — which still continue — because it came from a cover.

    My website is worth much more to me than anything on YouTube. And guess what? I own it!!

    Kudos to your success, Adam! — and may it continue to grow :-)

  32. says

    Hey Adam, great info! I just started down the Youtube path with my music last month. The First video I upped was a cover of Foo Fighters; Another Round. (see it here: A few days after this, I got an email saying it contained copyrighted material, but said I didn’t have to take any action (I was like; ah, so that’s how they do it?). I put up another cover since then and nothing has happened yet.

    It would appear that they do have relationships with SOME publishers at least. The fact that nothing has happened on my Tom Waits video makes me nervous though. I did make a separate channel to do my music, using a separate email, as I’ve had dealings with having an account shut down with no explanation along with everything connected to it (a popular vid on Yahoo when they got into the vid biz — a long and interesting story that one). Like you said; gotta protect your main email that’s attached to everything across their products and stratify.

    I’m now, as I type this, uploading an original to that account, but you’ve got me nervous. I wish Youtube had some kind of list of their relationships so we could cross-reference our choice of covers… stay inside the lines so to speak.

    • says

      I think you can be less nervous – so worry not. The publishers are realizing that they benefit from covers, and are realizing the old “model” of a ka-ching for a spin is simply – no longer.

      They are better of “piggy backing” your vid with advertising.

      I have gotten 4 copyright notices so far, not requiring action – and BILLIE JEAN was one of them. They are now overlaying ads.

      It has changed since I wrote this original post….

      Good luck!


  33. Tom says

    Just found this and read top to bottom. I appreciate it all.

    When a content match happens like this, who is matching it? Is it a manual thing by the artist? a group? automated process by youtube?

    I covered an artists song. Completely agree it’s infringement, won’t dispute it and am slightly honored? that my terrible cover was given thought to be flagged. I have seen this artist perform covers in concert, videos are online, etc.

    I would want to know if the artist / group is a bit hypocritical or if they themselves have the licenses for the works being performed.

    Just curious.

  34. says

    Hey Adam, found this post after searching about more info on copyright infringement/guitar covers on Google. I have a channel for guitar covers/tutorials and recently Warner Chappell has been slapping a few notices here and there on my videos. Quite distressing stuff. Wonder if we could talk some more privately because I feel like I am in a similar boat as you, playing and teaching because it makes us happy and still looking for ways to sustain a living in this crazy age. If you wouldn’t mind, you can reach me via e-mail –

    • says

      Warren – when you say “slapped” if it’s just a 3rd party copyright match notice, you probably are ok.

      When people make a photo montage and put THE ACTUAL mp3 underneath, that’s fodder for removal & violation.

      Lessons & covers have as of late, been less offensive to them…
      email me anytime…

  35. says

    By the way, your Billie Jean cover is sick and my student Blake McMurray (foot guitar kid) showed it to me last year. Great stuff, integrating melody/harmony/rhythm parts into a solo acoustic is one of the challenges I love most about guitar.

  36. Travis says

    Hi Alex,
    I’m definitely in agreement with you that attitudes seem to be changing regarding covers/infringemnt on YouTube (of the live variety). I think record companies are seeing the “pros” of exposure via covers and that it can actually help pad their wallets with downloaded mp3 sales, ads and exposure for the original artists. I’m curious to hear your point of view on the hugely popular/successful YouTube band “Boyce Avenue.” I think they have helped, in a way, turned some of the old, dated thinking around, while becoming an inspiration to many others posting covers today. I’m definitely a fan as their content, arrangements, and production value of their covers are awesome and in many videos superior to the original artists. But I am surprised they’ve managed to keep all of their videos up without encountering any problems. They have over 414 million views and even released a major label album last year (Since then they have returned to being an Indie band). Besides hard work, they definitely can point to YouTube as a huge reason their careers took off (I’m talking music and merchandise sales, and big U.S. and European tours). Of any band/artist on YouTube you would figure these guys would be petrified of having their page shut down or videos removed! How do you think they’ve managed to stay clear of copyright issues while becoming a shining example of why cover artists on YouTube are great for all parties involved (fans, record companies, emerging and established artists alike)? Thanks! Travis
    p.s. Awesome guitar playing on your videos!

  37. Becky says

    Is there a way to post covers and not label them but send links only to friends? I play covers for fun, and they sound WAY better than any songs I’ve written myself. I just want to be able to say, hey, listen to what I learned on guitar! Pretty amazing, huh?

  38. Becky says

    Well, just to follow up, I made my own web site and made it password-protected so that only friends can view it. I hope that’s a good solution for now.

  39. says

    Nice article. I think I grew up a little bit. I just started posting cover vids and they are all covers. I think I may try the alternate account and pointer ideas. Thanks alot. Good luck to you. -Brady Hamilton

  40. says

    Your blog is really cool to me and your subject matter is very relevant. I was browsing around and came across something you might find interesting. I was guilty of 3 of them with my sites. “99% of site managers are guilty of these 5 mistakes”. You will be suprised how fast they are to fix.

  41. G-man says

    Stumbled across this string when searching google for info on youtube copyright issues. I recently opened a youtube account, as my 11 year old daughter formed a band. Of course at this age they only play covers. We planned to use youtube as a means of allowing friends and family an opportunity to view their music. Already 5 of their videos labeled as “matched third party content”, even though some of the videos only have 20 views. When I check my account standing it still says “good”, so not really sure what this means.

    I do fully understand the copyright infringement laws, so I am not arguing that part, however I’d like to find a way to continue to allow my daughter’s band to be viewed. Are there any other options out there? In my situation, where we are not concerned over a large number of hits to our site, or people finding my daughters band by searching song titles, can I “get around the system”, by simply not putting the song titles/original artists in the video names or descriptions?

    Thanks for the comments.

    • says

      Hi G-Man,

      Youtube uses a sophisticated technology to match “third party content.” So even if you don’t put the title up, it’s a strong chance the technology they use to match the song will still pick it up. The only way we’ve been able to get around it somewhat is to put a 30 sec to 1 minute intro on the beginning of our videos.

      But even if they do match the content (and that has happened a few times with us), more than likely, they won’t pull it down. You may just start seeing ads appear on your videos. It’s slowly starting to become a win/win. The record labels get paid and the artists get to keep their videos up.

    • says


      Yes, this article will be ancient soon. Copyright holders had been pulling down vids, but with CD sales declining, cover versions with piggy backed ads are proving to be a way that publishers can monetize their tunes.

      Never use the ACTUAL mp3 as a soundtrack – that could likely vanish / put your acct in bad standing…..I would not worry about your daughters covers though.

      The copyright warning is scary at first, but you’ll just get ads plopped on top & to the side of the vid – most likely.

      Thanks for joining in!!!!

      – Adam

  42. G-man says

    Excellent. Thanks for the quick and kind responses. I told the girls about it, and they actually got excited that someone cared that much about their music to flag it…. I guess its good to think like a kid…..

  43. Not Whitney says

    What prevents you from getting and using a standard mechanical license for your cover performances? Online services such as Rghtsflow or Limelight make these available for something like $15 a song. So what’s missing from this picture?

    • says

      The companies work for sound recordings – CDs. albums on iTunes etc. Most CD houses wont make your CDs until you show that you have mechanical licenses these days.

      Once a visual image is involved, it’s a whole new ball game – and as of yet there is no standard law or rule with videos.

      Thank you for the comment!


  44. Not Whitney says

    Limelight for example: one cent per YouTube stream on a compulsory mechanical license. That’s $10 for a thousand hits on your video. The fact that you shoot a YouTube video of yourself playing has absolutely nothing to do with it. If you’re talking about putting pictures of the Beatles and Eric Clapton up while you cover ‘My Guitar Gently …. ‘ that’s another story … but why would anyone want to do that?

    As I see it there are two issues. First, the musician who is making no money at all and can’t cover the fee with ad revenue. There’s literally no nut to crack there. Second, someone who has gigs, a career. Someone who has leveraged the marketing and distribution of a well known song to garner some extra juice. That person may be moving ahead but on the horns of a dilemma.

    YouTube should be paying part of these fees, just like any nightclub. The only reason they aren’t is probably related to the obvious fact that Google can afford just a wee bit more legal pushback than the Whisky A Go-Go.

  45. Jim Stewart says

    Hey Adam, any new, news, on licensing video for internet only distribution. Just got a video blocked in the US for a cover song on youtube even with a mechanical license. Warner/Chappell is the publisher.
    Thanks for all the info!

  46. ScottD says

    This whole copyright thing is BS!!! Fretkillr is the best example. Unless he was being compensated he was NOT doing anything wrong. I’m a musician,
    so if I go out and play cover songs and get paid I’m taking money out of the
    artists pocket? NO!!!! As a matter of fact he,she or they are getting FREE
    promotion!! I don’t wanna hear about artists belly-aching about their rights. (Performance Rights Act) Artists are well compensated. Music sales are only
    a small part. They have endorsements, concerts, etc.. You know, I’m 44 years
    old, and since I was a teenager I have put THOUSANDS of dollars into artists pockets, (400-500 CD’s, 80-90 concerts, shirts, videos, etc…) So yes, I have contributed. They are really starting to go overboard with this. Every year now
    we have to hear someone stand on the Grammy stage and preach to us about the poor starving artists. Give me a break!

    • Zagan says

      Yes!, My sediments exactly but I have more. What is the first thing that EVERY musician has played when they first picked up an instrument? Was it an original song? HELL NO! You play what you have heard and how can any of you let them take that first joy away from us? That spark that inspired a lifetime of music. How can the next generation of musicians ever learn to play if we go run and hide and let these bloodsucking lawyers tell us what we can’t play on our own instruments?

      Copyright laws were intended to protect original recordings, we all know that. But these lawyers have slowly twisted them into taking away our right to play whatever we want to. More over this also applies to singers and if you think about it is taking away the right to free speech. Think about this – books are also copyrighted. If we let this continue you know these money hungry lawyers will soon apply this law to the written text and pretty much anything you can say has already been written. Your right to speak out will soon be gone.

      I say we upload so many cover songs on youtube that we crash their server and keep doing it until they listen to us. We could all join together and not play any gigs and leave all the bars with no live music for a while telling them that we are sick of being told we can’t play covers. We could ask people to quit buying music until the music industry agrees to let us play and post our cover songs.

      Because believe it or not we fill a need for live music. These original artists just can’t be everywhere at the same time. Hell many of them aren’t a band or even alive anymore. So people turn to us to fill the void. We are important and I don’t know about you guys but the crowd goes wild when I play and they always ask me to come back. I’ve been doing this for 36 years now and it never gets old and I’ll keep doing it until I die because I love the music and the audience.

      So put me in front of a judge and I’ll ask him if he ever sang a song he didn’t write (and you know every one has) and I’ll tell him to jump on down and stand right beside me as a defendant because he is just as guilty as I am. Case dismissed.

  47. Tristan Jones says

    I spoke to PRS today, regarding cover versions and lessons of how to play cover songs and (in the UK at least) the woman said covers on YouTube are ok as YouTube would have a license to play music on their site (which they do). They pay a PRS license fee, in the same way that a venue owner would buy a license that would mean that cover bands could play at the venue. However, you would have to pay the publisher if you were to use any of the original recording (even to sing/play along to), and you wouldn’t be able to advertise through the partner program or make any money directly through the video. If you wanted to post a video on your own website, then you would beed to buy a license for web use that would be about £140 from memory, and has the same restrictions. Basically, for any performing rights, PRS (who collect performance royalties in the UK) regard each website as a venue, so as long as you are careful not to infringe the copyright of the recording or written music, and don’t make money from ads or selling it, you should be fine.

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  49. says

    Thanks for the article. Ironically, I found it and subscribed to your channels by “Googling” the issue. How funny. Great subject, some great solutions. Though this is a huge, ludicrous problem, I view this as opportunity. Let’s get off our duff musicians, and get writing more of our own material. The sad thing, is that the well know artists seem to have no clue how much free publicity they are getting by people doing their covers. We use cover tunes all the time to teach music to our students. It’s a shame, that we cannot continue to motivate our students by putting the covers up on YouTube.

    Also, gotta love the way this issue has effected the use of copyright free Apple loops in Garage Band and Logic. I’m in a battle currently over using a nice Loop behind one of my Grandson’s basketball videos. Can I here a “Give me a Break?”

  50. says

    That is not exactly true that the artist doesn’t get paid. When your content matches copyrighted content and is allowed to stay ad royalties are paid by YouTube-Who is making most the money off of watchers. What is not paid is licensing fees because technically you as a video maker have to secure a license from the copyright owner to use it (synchronize it) with a video.

  51. says

    We’ve just received a notice from You Tube that a video of my 10-year old son playing Silent Night with his guitar tutor includes third party material ( … my research leads to my conclusion that the copyright claimant is Warner Chappell, possibly this might be based on the fact that the Carpenter’s version had different lyrics specially written which are within copyright.

    However my son / tutor’s version does not contain any lyrics whatsoever and the backing was improvised at the time by his tutor. The original lyrics were written in 1816 and the tune in 1818. provides a list of artists playing this song going back to 1948. The tune is no longer under the protection of copyright.

    Under the Berne Convention (implemented internationally and in the UK by the Copyright and Patents Act 1988). The Act and amendment establishes that copyright in most works lasts until 70 years after the death of the creator if known, otherwise 70 years after the work was created or published.,_Designs_and_Patents_Act_1988

    Silent Night – or correctly Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, was Declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO ICH attempts to preserve cultural heritage ‘with’ the people or community by protecting the processes that allow traditions and shared knowledge to be passed on, so I’m looking forward to Warner Chappell facing down UNESCO!

    These are just bully-boy tactics to divert any small income (if there was any) to be swallowed into the cavernous vaults of multinationals.

    Or perhaps – I may have just come around to it – perhaps the copyright issue lies with the name? However Bing Translator provides a direct translation of Stille nacht, heilige nacht as Silent night, holy night. I will now rename the offending video just in case, thereby hoping to remove the last fragment of rug from under the feet of the bullies.

    Good luck in your mission!

    • says

      Good luck in your pursuit of Cultural Heritage and Public Domain. These multinationals are insidious putting their tendrils into anything (DNA to Silent Night). America has a lot to answer for in Citizens United. I hope you keep the blog informed of your progress.

  52. says

    I agree with the sentiment of the article. While the practice has become common place may do not realize that this is infringement simply because it is so common place. Some feel that if it was illegal it wouldn’t have technology possible to allow the practice. Others want to tell record labels what to do so they can continue the practice. I’d like to suggest that Youtube get one of those licenses similar to those that allow resturnats and clubs to play music. I think BMI and ASCAP provides those liscenses. The next step would be to make the Youtube premium account which allows for the placement of cover songs which is covered by the license Youtube provides. In this manner the fans,aspiring artists, and the legal right holders for the music and drama will all be fairly compenated for thier activity and or useage. I just purchased the mechanical rights for a tune called Top Billing by The Audio Two and subsequently released a cover version of the tune on I-tunes and Amazon via CDBaby. While it wasn’t expensive I relize that most fans will not realize the moral value in paying someone for thier creation. If the premium account was at a low price, I’m sure artists who value thier cover sngs on Youtbe would pay.

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  54. gary beckwith says

    I would like to understand how Youtube identifies copyrighted cover tune performances? I mean, if I’m playing a Led Zeppelin song solo acoustic, it is so different than what is on the album, how do they do it? Are they actually identifying the music I’m playing or did they catch the credit I gave to the songwriters in the video?

  55. says

    Hey Adam, what would you say about matched third party content? Leave it up and see what happens? Acnowledge it, leave it be, or dispute it??

  56. says

    It’s truly unexpected, i was on your site just 20 mins earlier, once this internet browser was freezing to death and trigged a CTD, did you added some new plugins or altered something else which could possibly cause this kind of a behaviour? I visit your site fairly regulary and never ever had that before!

  57. Sherrie says

    Hi Adam,

    I have rescently opened a youtube channel to post cover songs from broadway musicals and operas (I’m a singer). I use instrumentals which I find on youtube- I have received “third party” matches, and have acknowledged them. I’m wondering if you think I am “safe” from having my account deleted. I haven’t received any strikes.

    By the way, Thank you so much for starting this threa, amd comtinuing to reply to it.- I have found it quite useful! Thanks, hope you can help me out!

    • says

      No one is “Safe ” from any thing free on the internet. Period. In Fact you just admitted to stealing someones music, 90% of the time it’s the publisher that cares. Because he can’t just write another song and the artist already dumped him. THINK PEOPLE. Nothing is free.

  58. Lauri says

    Hi Adam,
    Thanks for all the great info. My son has been recording covers and posting to You Tube. He records all of the instrumentals in some, and buys ‘karaoke versions’ of others that have just the drum tracks and vocals in them then adds in guitar, bass, and keyboard. His main passion is guitar, and he is wanting to put together a live performance that includes these covers using prerecorded parts mixed in with the live guitar. I’ve been looking for answers to see if this is ok. He gives credit on You Tube to the artist/band, but we’re wondering if that is enough or what steps he needs to take to be able to perform these that have bits of the original mixed in. In some, he performs all of the instrumentals and just leaves vocals out. Some songs sound so much better having the vocals and original drum tracks though. These will be non-paid performances; just looking to get performance experience performing his favorite songs.

    • says

      Does he give credit to the backing track he bought or stole or found a free link to or does he omit that particular thing to make it look to idiots that he actually did the work, which is still plagiarism.

      Dude you and not helping the uneducated of the net here, you are the problem, because you don’t even know the tip of the ice berge about to sink the Titanic. Incredible that you can morally let this continue, picking who you respond too, do to your obvious lack of knowledge of the real truth beyond all this mis-information.

      I cringe at the idea of what the heck your “music” sounds like and I will never listen to it, because of this crap you let stay up. Trying to keep you site ALIVE what a crock of SH**

      • Lauri says

        No, Lou, he doesn’t take credit for work he doesn’t do and he doesn’t steal music. He may be only 21, but he has total respect for the artists that put the song out there to begin with and all that have any part in it. And yes, he PAYS for any backing track he uses (although he does at times record all parts himself). He gives credit to any and all that do anything but him, and You Tube always has the link for others to buy the song from the band that released the version he is covering. I have since my initial question consulted an entertainment attorney about what he is doing, and he is fine. His videos are extremely high quality, and are proving to be great learning experiences for him. In working on these covers, he is learning so much about the guitarists and their methods in making their songs, and in the process, finding his own sound.

        • adamrafferty says

          Thanks Lauri for adding the clarification. I am surprised that an attorney gave it the ok, from what I know – all covers are infringement unless you get specific permission.

          Needless to say I have covers up, but it was my understanding that it is infringement – (I am not saying it’s bad :-) )

          • Lauri says

            There were other scenarios discussed with the attorney where he could run into problems. If he were to record the covers and market them without permission / rights, that would be a different story. To post a cover on You Tube (as well as playing a cover in a local venue) isn’t going to create legal problems. (Venues pay fees to cover this – that was another discussion in itself). When songs are matched on You Tube now, links go up immediately so the person viewing can buy the actual recording. That turns the cover into a marketing tool for the band being covered. Pretty clever I think. I’m personally glad they do this because those recording it (originally) should be making the money from it. Looking at it from a fan perspective of both the original artist and those doing covers, I see it flattering for the original artist that others want to cover their songs. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. :)

          • adamrafferty says

            Lauri I thought it would be a problem to post covers. Can you forward me a link where youtube now says it’s ok? I thought it’s still a crapshoot with the content match – like maybe you’re safe, maybe not. Would love clarity on this. Thank you for your helpful posts.

  59. says

    I just like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and check once more right here frequently.
    I’m reasonably certain I’ll be told many new stuff proper here!

    Best of luck for the following!

  60. says

    First off I would like to say excellent blog! I had a quick question
    in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
    I have had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out.
    I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost just trying to figure
    out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Thank you!

    • says

      Good question. Once I get hold of anything that interests me, I write. Then I proofread and re-write a lot. It does not always flow….believe me! With anything – writing, playing guitar…there is a “settling down” phase the mind must do. If it takes you 10-15 mins, consider yourself lucky!!! :-)

  61. says

    Hi Adam, great article. I came here because today I got a message on my cover version of Midnight Oil’s Shipyards of New Zealand song on Youtube this morning saying it was matched 3rd party nonsense and I didn’t realize exactly what it was that they meant. I had always thought that as long as it wasn’t the ‘exact’ same song or recording of someone else’s song than it was OK. The weird thing is the video has a whopping SIX views so it’s not like after a billion views somebody up there said ‘Whoah, this guy’s costing us money- shut ‘em down!’

    I disputed the claim saying that the video wasn’t a copy of athe same video posted elsewhere (again, I misunderstood their terminology at the time) stating that I was the only one in my living room playing the drums / guitar / and bass for it. Whoops. What do you think they’ll do to me? Say ‘yeah, you’re probably right sorry buddy’ or deleted my whole account for a 1st offense that was in no way intentional?

    Thanks sir!

    • adamrafferty says

      Hi – well you did violate copyright – it’s not your tune! But 3rd party “matches” are common. The dispute won’t work with YT but I would not worry – leave as is. They will probably run ads on top of your video….All the best! AR

  62. says

    Thanks for the excellent post Adam. I’m pretty new at this. I started my Youtube channel “Weekendguitarist” and had planned to help other musicians learn how to play certain songs. This week I published a cover (not a very good one mind you) of Supertramp’s “Just a little bit”. Before it could be viewed (4 views) the industry flagged me and now my site is in bad standing!

    Again thanks for the excellent advice. My personal thought is that you are correct this is infringement…and falls under the “derivative” clauses. However, what we are doing (at least what I’m doing) does not have the same entertainment value as the original work. It is instructive. But as the law currently stands we are infringing.

    • adamrafferty says


      My account is not in bad standing, but it just goes to show – it is a minefield out there. I hate to say it, but I am leaning more towards lessons & originals.

      Covers on YT is like going over the speed limit. Just because you & many others don;t get caught most of the time, it don’t mean we won’t!

      In all honesty, Google is pretty uncool…they knew damn well that YT was an infringing platform and simply let it all go on, only slaping the wrists of users sometimes, with no predictability.

  63. says

    Hi Adam,

    I just started my YouTube 3 months ago and just got my first copyright message, so I acknowledged it, and I will do for my other 5 videos when/if they get the same message come up. My question is: now I’ve acknowledged this isn’t my song, is there still a chance of my videos being deleted, or is that it? Will they leave my video that I acknowledged alone now?

    Thanks, Emily

        • adamrafferty says

          Lou, rather than attack the person, attack the argument point by point.

          Please explain your points clearly. I can feel your fury and emotion, but the thoughts are disorganized.

          Looking forward to your reply. I am sure my readers are too!

          Please excuse the previous typos.

    • says

      So your a parasite that has gotten away with it. You haven’t gathered your fan base’s email addresses and rely on You Tube and you call your self a leader? I haven’t even listen to you play. I have been covering songs my whole life and you having to pay for making money off 2 of the biggest hits of all time and thinking that your version is superior to the original, your inference is an abomination IMHO.

      Then you post this crap to scare others when you haven’t covered you own ass is just plain old STUPID no matter how gifted or talented you are, IMHO.

      I have had all my videos deleted by You tube some lost to only be re posted via the internet “back in time cache” at a lower resolution due to my hard drive back up crashing at the same time. There is no such a thing as coincidence.

      Are you aware that your originals now belong to “You Tube” once you post them, it’s in your “Terms of Service” agreement. You might want to read it with a Law graduate. Good luck there you are nothing against Google and You Tube, they will bury your attorney in paper work and he will stop defending you.

      Make your own web site pay for it. Copy right your material, pay for that. Build your audience the old fashioned REAL way by playing your music at a gig.

      They are letting you get big enough to disappear you. Do you really think your work matters? I have a laundry list of REAL Stars that are piano movers and your giging, selling merc. and still using the Tube? With out a back up plan…and scaring people and whining.

      You look like a douch to me and your action tell a whole different story of negativity and entitlement. Denial is strong.

      Maybe you should cover “Man in the Mirror” naked!

      You lost my respect by just posting this insidious diatribe of meaningless nonsense

      • adamrafferty says

        Lou I am not quite sure I understand what made you so pissed off in this post. I have a mailing list, and had good unexpected fortune with a few vids becoming popular.

        I just finished a 2 month tour in EUrope, have dates comin up in Toronto and Cali, write my own tunes, teach workshops. Not sure what it is you think I do for a living. I have been a gigging player my whole life.

        I surely don’t think my versions are superior to the originals also. What made you think that?

        The main theme is….what may have worked on YT a few years ago won’t continue to work, and some people get nailed while others don’t and this is very confusing to people who do get nailed.

        I’d love to build a greater following with more covers and I am not for this reason. It may look like a self contradiction because you are not taking the time factor into account.

        The landscape and rules on YT and Google are ever changing. Such a pity that your vids were deleted and re uploaded.

        I will happily answer any other questions you may have.

        • says

          What pissed me off is my collaborator who was skid dish to begin with started to get into You Tube , I educated him to the truths of the YT ad’s associated with cover tunes and he went off the deep end, found and read your mis-informed admittedly out of date ragged post here, (like you actually know the alga rhythms of how they think you are covering something) and committed suicide. Because of you and this particular post.

          After I spent months doing a full many band audio production for him then I could only stand to work with his paranoia at the last part in as in a guitar solo so have it on your head. You contributed if not were the sole contributor to his demise.

          Take this down until you are an expert at how , why and what is happening at You Tube and Google’s data collection, much like face book and all SMART phones and navigation systems in cars. They are all tracking systems to analyze behavior and travel for future evidence to be held agains you.

          Plain and simple, why do you think it’f free? To destroy the music industry, to sell us an inferior product?

          He is gone and his last letter apologizing to me of having had another change of heart, had this link in it as an explanation as to why he could not take it any more.

          So write you new hit song about that.

          Learn before you publish!

          Get some one to fact check your mis information.

          Then do us all a favor get off the fuck off the net!

          You are a glutton, having a gig and lesions and all the other BS you claim…make room for others or are not you rich enough YET?

          • Tony says

            Wow, seriously?

            You’re a GROWN man (judging by your profile picture on youtube) and you insist on posting garbage like this here? Even blaming the supposed suicide of your friend on Adam and his blog post about copyright infringement?

            Get yourself sorted out. Keep uploading your covers to youtube (how ironic) but please don’t ever visit this site again. I normally don’t bother with replying to comments like these, but since I find yours so deeply disturbing (most likely, Adam and his followers feel the same way) – I couldn’t resist.

            Good day and mental health to you.

  64. Danny McEvoy says

    Rock and roll…Just a warning..steer well clear of Prince..I’ve just had my first “Strike” thanks to Prince…I’ve been researching who to keep clear of and have gone into my video manager and deleted everything I’ve done by Prince..everything connected to Van Morrison and (after reading this blog) “What a wonderful World” mission has been to sing every Beatles ever (2010) every top 3 song of the 60′s (2011)..the 70′s (2012) and the 80′s (this year)..rather than it be a financial thing it was more of an Art Project..and of course the covers (which I’m not bad at) lead folk to my FB page..and my originals…

    Is there anybody else I need to keep away from..I’ve heard Neil Young is a no no…


  65. says

    The thing with covers, is even if something looks safe (because you’ve found other people singing it on youtube) still doesn’t make it safe. I understand your goal, that whole, well they look for something else and i pop up, so they check me out, then check out my other gear… But nothing is really safe to use (besides Beatles Tracks oddly) because beatles tracks you CAN monetise as a “cover” and they are the only label i have seen that allow that directly on youtube. most other song wrights change hands in a game of poker, you never no who owns what these days.

    I had a cover of sorts with a WMG issue that had the video blocked worldwide (until i decided to try and sell the song) I took a piece of music “from a movie that had no lyrics” and i put my own words to it. Then i used Loudr (a site that puts music on itunes) very similar to distrokid BUT.. loudr will attempt to license actual covers and get them on sale for a cut of the sales.
    Now granted you wont earn much this way. but you will get that whole “Also By This Artist” that your kinda looking for on youtube.but on iTunes instead.

    Another thing you can also do is register on “Audiam” and upload your cover track under the option “i don’t own it, and i didn’t write it” and they will send the fingerprint to youtubes peek recognition scanners. This is like a heads up for google & helps them place the right adds (so that mp3 would need to be uploaded a week before you uploaded the video) but do not upload your self to audiam using backing tracks, karaoke tracks or anything like that. It has to be your own recordings, even if its someone elses song, its got to be your recording of it, and no ones other material included. Ber in mind karaoke and backing tracks you don’t own those actual rights. so not only would you step on the singers toes but also the music performers to.

    As a musician and a video editor my self i have come to the conclusion its easier to earn from my music by giving it away.. rather than selling it (i was number one composer in the world on reverbnation for almost 4 months) and it got me no where, i have my own clean google adsense and that to since june 2011 has only earnt £49 (that i cant touch till it gets to £60)
    .But i have earnt more money in 20 days finding my music in other peoples videos, than i have from my own in almost 3 years. and none of my claims on peoples videos affect their account in any way (and never will because i maintain the rights and administer them for the benefit of editors) Some of us are even looking into trying to automate the splitting of royalties with the video maker (giving them an incentive to use my material)

    You might wana read some of the tutorials on my blog, ive been at this a while & i never favor one company over another, i recommend many alternatives and highly recommend longevity solutions (where the ball keeps rolling after you don’t) help leave your kids an earner.. rather than a set amount.. while maintaining the rights to all your material. My advice on the blog is free & i only post about systems i am already working with, and i also slate the odd companies i find that should be avoided and i explain why.

  66. says

    Hey would you mind letting me know which web host you’re using?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different internet browsers and I
    must say this blog loads a lot quicker then most. Can you suggest a good hosting
    provider at a reasonable price? Many thanks, I appreciate it!

  67. Zagan says

    If you people had even done a little research, you can dispute the copyright infringement claim under the fair use statute if you classify your video as an instructional video. So throw a link to some tabs in with your video and you are good to go. No reason to run and hide, beat them at their own game and READ the law they are trying to hit you over the head with.

  68. Rick Spadoni says

    It appears the huge music conglomerates are doing the best they can do destroy live music in America. It used to be that only the venues had to pay royalties to ASCAP, BMI, etc, Now the’record companies themselves are extorting money from poor musicians trying to make a meager living. This is plain evil and a big indication of what has happened to Corporate America. We”re being raped by pirates who wear business suits. To be honest, if Google paid ASCAP, BMI or one of the other royalty collection agencies an annual fee, like bars, concert halls and hotels do, there wouldn’t be copyright issues. And unless Warner is the publishing company of the offending song, they have no ownership rights. They don’t own songs unless they are the publishers.

    This greed has to stop somewhere. They’re going to destroy any kind of artistic expression in this country.

  69. Matt Clay says

    I lose respect for any article with typos.

    “Copyright Violation. Period. Grow up if you wnat to argue or think otherwise!”

  70. Matt Clay says

    Write your own music.

    Is there really anything to be proud of if you didn’t write it? Listeners will enjoy a song they like based on the familiarity of the song. Unless you do a blatantly bad job covering it, they will enjoy it.

    Write your own music and you wont have these problems. You have the subscribers now to do so.

  71. Kevin says

    I have criticism for Warner music, BMG etc. but also for you Adam.

    I hate by which incredibly devious ways of argumentation these music companies try to fuck over good artists, i think a combination of notes (which is all a song is to me) should not have copyrights on it and im also pretty sure that following a perfectly sound argumentation, they can not do this…but we all know that money is worth more than common sense.

    Regarding your channel

    I like your stuff, but having to deal with this serves you just right for not making “fair use” of the covers. You try to make profit out of work that was almost entirely created by others, instead of attempting to distribute your videos in an educational non-profit manner. If u think that music should not be free you arent even a musician nor an artist, just someone who sells music for a living (and its not even your own music lmfao)

  72. Victor says


    I came across this article when gathering information about uploading cover songs to youtube without violating the copyright, since I would actually like to take this topic serious. Since You have been struggeling with youtube for quite a while, I wonder if you could give a brief update on the situation now in 2014.

    It seems that non of the players want to ask the publisher for a synchronization licence every time they cover a song, and I can imagine that the publishers have better things to to then giving away dozends of licences for all the people making covers on youtube, especially for free. I heard that right now the usual procedure is that covers may get monetized by the copyright owner but usually don’t get deleted. Other people say you could actually even monetize covers by now.

    Did you get the impression that the situation has changed over the last years?

    Best regards

      • Steve says

        So you can upload a cover, now?
        Under permission via Fair Use (US Code 17 Section 107)?
        I’d imagine the way you’d upload would matter… I use the “People or Blog” setting for the video and then state that is Fair Use… a commentary on the musical piece.

        That being said I do it for students and don’t make money directly from the videos. Thanks for your response.

        • says

          They have a content match policy in place now, since they cant stop people from uploading covers, please see comment I made to Terry, and thanks for posting.

  73. Terry says

    Hi Adam-

    I liked reading your post.

    I have a rather serious problem involving my own cover of the song “Over the Rainbow”. I had used it for the background music of a non-profit video. The video was done by me to promote the ban on horse drawn carriages in NYC and raise public awareness (educational) and support for the ban. The song just worked perfectly with the theme and meaning behind the video. I thought it was a fair use case because: I would not be making any money from it, not for myself or for a non-profit group or charity. My cover is also “transformative”, changed the original meaning of the song that was done for the movie. My recording and video would have no affect on the sale or market of the original work.

    That said, I was still trying to see if I could obtain a user’s license. When I saw the typical costs, I could never afford to pay that.

    The other problem I ran into is that I can’t even find who has the current rights to the song (not any other version or arrangement, just the original song) to contact to ask for permission.

    The purpose of my doing the video is to reach a lot of people, and not just people who are interested in hearing the music. It would even be sent to City Council members, so if it’s successful it would have a much bigger chance of being detected.

    So I’m wondering just how much trouble I might get into if I were to release the video. If it’s eventually taken down, that’s not the worst thing because it’s something that needs to come out soon. I’m just worried that I can be sued. So do you think the first course of action by a publisher is to sue a non-profit, or simply request that the video is taken down? When I say non-profit, it’s really just me, I did the video not for profit, and I’m affiliated with some animal rights groups, but the video is my responsibility.

    I also am willing to pay a small fee for a one time user license, but would you have any idea how to get in touch with the publishers?

    • says

      Terry – if it were Youtube only, you might be ok, (but please check with a lawyer for the official word.)

      This article that I have posted is a little out of date. Things have changed.

      Youtube now has a “contnet match” policy where they will scan and if they recognize the song, they’ll run ads and pay the publishers – so if your get a “3rd party copyright match” notice, just click the button in your admin to acknowledge it and don’t freak out. It means the system is working.

      However DON’T make a DVD of the presentation with that song otherwise you can have big trouble as the licensing for DVD is totally different than YT.

      I do mainly covers and get the match notices, acknowledge them and the publisher makes money by putting ads on my vids.

      Good luck.


  1. […] Adam Rafferty is a man with a mission on music, as a performer and someone who has examined for himself some of the problems encountered by musicians in relationship to copyright laws.   He wails about his own situation, where he has done cover songs himself and worries about the future of these videos.  He points to the problems that have occurred with many people on YouTube, as the enforcement of copyright laws continues to heighten, as they have had to delete popular accounts.    His advice:  open up a non-infringing account to protect original work and copyright-free material if the account is at risk because of cover songs.  His underlying statement, however, is for the musician to perform his/her own material, therefore avoiding copyright problems in the first place. Added to this is a vast database of copyright-free material written before 1923, which is the date used by the copyright laws as the cutoff for writers and producers to make claims. ShareDelicious : Arts, Human Rights-Law : Bob Dylan, copyright law for musicians, cover songs, I'm Sexy and I Know It, Joan Baez, Noah Guthrie, Today Show, US copyright law, Wired, YouTube videos […]

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