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I would like to upload music on a video platform such as YouTube or Twitch. What do I need to consider?

Do you want to use music on YouTube or Twitch?
Here’s everything you need to know. First things first: It is easier than you may think, especially if you use music for personal purposes on the video platforms. Having said that, you can also get the necessary information here if you are a commercial user.

How you combine music and moving images

Musical works are protected by copyright. If you want to use music, for example in a video, you need the permission of the rightsholders, i.e. the creators and the music publishers.  This is why this rule applies to all film and cinematic formats: You need to ask the rightsholders for permission.  If you are a private individual and use music on YouTube or Twitch, the matter is much simpler, as there are licence agreements between GEMA and the platforms.

Exploitation rights granted for music subject to a GEMA licence on YouTube

Based on the licence agreement YouTube concluded with us, we granted the platform the respective exploitation rights. This means that music subject to a GEMA licence can be uploaded because YouTube is paying the licence fees for this. Neither creators, publishers nor channel operators have to report the video upload to us. The licence fees are not carried by the channel operator but YouTube itself.

What rules apply for the use of music on Twitch?

Just like YouTube, we also regard the platform operator Twitch as a licence partner, instead of the individual person carrying out the streaming or uploading activities. We are currently in talks with the platform. So far, you therefore do not need to acquire an additional licence from GEMA if you use music from the GEMA repertoire on Twitch. If anything was to change in this regard, you will find out here.

Obtain further necessary rights from the rightsholders

Please remember that you may have to obtain additional rights directly from the rightsholders. If you use existing recordings, you need to acquire the relevant neighbouring rights of the performers and the record producer. Usually, the latter is taking care of these rights. Find out more about this by getting in touch with GVL – Gesellschaft zur Verwertung von Leistungsschutzrechten or by using the contact details below.

Synchronisation rights – only part of the licence agreements for videos for private use

If you produce videos with music, you usually need to clear the synchronisation rights. This means that you acquire the right from the creators to use their song in your video. If you are a private individual using the music, i.e. not carrying out a commercial activity and not generating any substantial income, this is not necessary about the mentioned video platforms. This is because the synchronisation rights are part of the existing licence agreements for private uses.

If, however, you have a commercial purpose in mind, you must acquire the rights directly: In the case of a published work, the best way to do this is to directly contact the music publisher, in the case of an unpublished work, to contact the creators.  Find out the publishers and creators in the GEMA search repertoire  function.

Consequences of copyright infringements on YouTube and Co.

If you use copyright-protected content without having acquired the respective authorisation, you may have to cough of quite a bit of money, especially in the case of videos for non-personal purposes.  Potential consequences are:

  • Written warning: The rightsholders may send you a written warning and may demand that you remove all videos where you have used content that you were not authorised to use.
  • Reimbursement of legal fees: The rightsholders may also instruct a lawyer whose costs you have to carry.
  • Damages: You have to pay the licence fee retroactively, and it may be rather steep when it comes to commercial exploitation (e.g. an advertisement or commercial).
  • Provide information: You must provide information to which extent you have used the work and how high the turnover you generated was.

If you have violated the terms of use of the platforms “substantially or repeatedly”, your account may be deactivated or even closed.

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