You or your users may have seen the prompt “Your Video Contains Copyrighted Material” on YouTube or some other video-sharing network when using copyrighted music in your video. 

Regardless of the type of video network, the legal, ethical and technical ramifications are basically the same.

For now, we will deal specifically with YouTube since statistically it is the most widely used.  Even though YouTube may be blocked at your school site, students commonly upload school video projects to YouTube from home and their remote devices.

It’s always good for administrators to do periodic searches on the web by typing in their school name or any other keywords to see what school related videos teachers and students have posted. 

Many districts have embraced YouTube as a legitimate classroom tool, and have set up a YouTube channel that is administered by a teacher or administrator.  This not only helps with compliance but can also open up a world of learning and sharing for students, teachers and administrators.

I was prompted to write this article because school administrators kept mentioning to me they had been cited for having school related videos on YouTube that contained copyrighted music. In some cases, they were asked to remove the video or pay fines despite the fact that YouTube had allowed the video to remain published in certain countries.  This came after the uploaded video was flagged as containing a copyright notice.

They asked two questions:

1) Doesn’t Fair Use apply?

A good indication that Fair Use may not apply is the very fact that the video is being broadcast on a public network.  Those school administrators who had videos removed thought they fit the criteria for Fair Use.  Ultimately, the copyright holders have the final say as to determining whether or not their music can be used – even with Fair Use applications.

Here are some useful links to help with determining Fair Use:
• Copyright Issues When Using Music in Videos

YouTube also provides information at this link:


2) How did they (the copyright holder) find us?
In every case where copyrighted music is used, the user is flagged in the account area.  It is important for administrators to find out what teachers and students are doing with these notices and have procedures in place to address them. 

When a user uploads a video to YouTube that contains copyrighted music, a copyright notice is sent to the user and registers your video and IP address with the controlling entity.


The notification will appear beside your song in your account’s video listing.

When clicking the “View Copyright info,” the following will appear:


In a closer view of this screen shown below, “Test” is the title of the video uploaded.  The type of content subject to copyrights is “Sound Recording,” and the controlling entity in this case is Universal Music Group.


It is important to note that YouTube is not only protecting themselves legally by sending this notice, but the video’s administrator and IP address is also registered with the controlling entity (UMG).

Under Universal Music Group, you have the artists, publishers, composers and copyright holders who may lay claim to the musical content.  The notification in this case could come from Universal Music Group or any of those they represent, including their legal representatives.

Further down the screen you will see:




Other common questions from school administrators when receiving a cease and desist notice are the following:

• Why are other schools not getting into trouble?
The short and simple answer is that there are other schools getting into trouble, and the information being provided here will help your school to not be taken off guard.

• Why is our school’s video being taken down while others are not?
YouTube explains this in their FAQ area:

Ironically, there are many videos on YouTube that explain how to illegally get around the copyright notifications and keep your audio and video in tact.  It is important that administrators know about these videos since teachers and students are using them frequently.  IMPORTANT:  Those who use this method think they are bypassing copyright, but really they are just overriding the system so their video and audio are not removed.  However, the copyright warning and visibility remains. Also, the records of their overriding the digital rights management of YouTube could lead to deeper trouble.

I am not going to post the links to these videos, but if you do a search on YouTube for “bypass copyright” or something similar, you will find many videos on the topic.  The purpose of my mentioning this is not for you to use the videos but to make administrators aware that they exist and are used frequently.

Some school administrators have mentioned to me that if they get a cease and desist, they will honor it.   In the meantime, however, they will leave the videos in tact.  Ethically, the goal should be not to get a cease and desist at all.  I’m not the copyright police or your attorney; I am giving only background information to assist in your organization’s compliance.  But, when making video publishing decisions, keep in mind we are all being held to a higher standard of ethics as teachers and educators.

Let’s work together to model ethical behavior and good digital citizenship for our students.

Other useful links related to this article:

BrittBarry Starlin Britt is the executive producer and co-founder of Soundzabound Royalty Free Music.  After being hired to head up the content and Professional development divisions at Soundzabound, Barry began educating the K-12 educators on various technologies and compliance in 1998. 

As an ASCAP member with 20 years of experience in music and digital copyright, Barry also studied professional music at Berklee College of Music in Boston and classical music at Clayton State College in Atlanta.  By trade, Barry is a songwriter, producer and instrumentalist who has gone on to ventures in film, video, broadcast, podcasting and web 2.0 applications for education.  Barry lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife and daughters.



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